Nuchal cord and how it may affect an infant

Nuchal cord is a condition that occurs when the umbilical cord wraps around the neck of a fetus or newborn baby. This can result in serious brain damage to the infant because of an insufficient supply of oxygen. This is a severe condition that can have long-lasting effects and even cause fatalities. Disturbingly, this is a common pregnancy complication. According to a recent medical study, approximately 10 to 29 percent of fetuses suffer from nuchal cord.

It is important to know the causes and symptoms that are potentially relevant to nuchal cord.


Nuchal cord may develop any time during pregnancy. There are many circumstances that cause this condition, including these examples:

  • Fetus movements
  • Insufficient Wharton’s jelly
  • Carrying more than one baby
  • Excessively long umbilical cord
  • Poor structure of the cord
  • Excessive amounts of amniotic fluid

However, there are numerous other problems and events that lead to this condition. In some situations, there are no identifiable causes for nuchal cord.


Nuchal cord can result in various medical complications. The consequences largely depend on whether the doctor is able to diagnose and quickly deliver a baby who is suffering from nuchal cord and asphyxia. Here are some of the most common consequences:

  • Developmental delays
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Motor skill delays
  • Cognitive problems
  • Low Apgar score
  • Diminished tendon reflexes
  • Poor feeding
  • Irritability
  • Absent newborn reflexes of grasping, sucking or swallowing
  • Lethargy
  • Hypertonia
  • Seizures
  • Organ failure

The most severe cases involve infant death.


If a doctor detects a nuchal cord during an ultrasound, there must be a special procedure during delivery. The doctor may need to perform one of the following actions:

  • Slip the cord off of the baby
  • Use the somersault technique
  • Cut or clamp the cord
  • Perform an emergency C-section

Failure to properly manage this condition may count as medical negligence.