Umbilical cords provide a developing baby with blood, oxygen, nutrients, and waste disposal. Usually, when a baby moves around, the tension on the cord promotes growth, lengthening the cord. If the cord is too short, it means that the baby might not be moving around enough, signaling a potential issue with its health. Short cords can also pose a risk for numerous delivery complications and birth injuries.
Specialists can make detailed evaluations of the cord using ultrasound. If there is an issue, it is important to closely monitor mother and child using prenatal tests, and sometimes to admit the mother for continuous monitoring for optimal health outcomes. The biggest complication of a short cord is placental abruption, where the baby’s movement pulls on the cord, causing the placenta to pull away, causing severe bleeding. This requires a rapid C-section to prevent the child from having severe oxygen deprivation and brain damage.
Birth injuries are a very serious problem associated with umbilical cord abnormalities. A cord can become wrapped around a baby’s neck (nuchal cord), it can develop a true knot, and it can exit in front of the baby, which is called a prolapsed cord. Another type of umbilical cord problem that can be very dangerous is when the cord is short.