Umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus or limbs – how dangerous, and what to do?

This record was checked by a gynecologist-endocrinologist, mammologist, ultrasound specialist Sikirina Olga Iosifovna

Umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus or limbs - how dangerous, and what to do?With such a phenomenon as the entanglement of the fetus with the umbilical cord, 25% of expectant mothers face. And naturally, this news becomes a reason not only for concern, but also for really serious experiences.

Is there a risk for the baby and mother, what is the danger of entanglement, and what to expect during childbirth?

The content of the article:

  1. Types of fetal cord entanglement and risks
  2. The main reasons for the cord entanglement
  3. Diagnostics of the umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus with ultrasound
  4. What to do when entwined with an umbilical cord, how to give birth?

Types of umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus – the main risks of cord entanglement

The formation of the umbilical cord begins as early as 2-3 weeks of pregnancy. As the crumbs grow, it gradually increases in length.

This umbilical cord consists of 2 arteries through which blood circulates with the products of children’s vital activity, the umbilical vein with the function of transporting oxygen with nutrients, as well as connective tissue.

Thanks to a jelly-like substance called “warton jelly”, the umbilical tissue is resistant even to serious external loads – twisting, squeezing, etc.

The average length of the umbilical cord is 45-60 cm, but it is believed that the length of the umbilical cord depends on genetics, and in some cases it can even reach 80 cm.

In ¼ babies of all expectant mothers, an umbilical cord entanglement is found, which is not considered a pathology, but requires special attention.

Types of umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus and the main risks

The main types of umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus:

The most common type is the entanglement around the neck. It may be …

  1. One-time. Most common.
  2. Double. It is also found quite often and is not dangerous when not entwined.
  3. Three times. An option in which you should also not panic if the doctor says that there is no reason for it.

It also happens …

  • Tight.
  • Or not tight. An option that does not pose a threat to the life of the crumbs.

And also …

  1. Isolated. A variant in which the umbilical cord “hooked” only the limbs of the fetus or only its neck.
  2. And combined. In this case, several parts of the body are entangled.

In most cases, specialists diagnose mild cases of entanglement, which do not harm children’s health and do not interfere with the normal course of childbirth.

It is also worth noting that double and single entanglement tends to disappear independently before childbirth (the baby simply unravels himself).

What is the risk of a neck entanglement?

The main risks include the following …

  • Chaining the fetus with the umbilical cord and subsequent oxygen starvation, which the baby begins to experience.
  • Strong tension of the umbilical cord and subsequent placental abruption (approx. – if the umbilical cord is too short, and the entanglement is tight). Occurs in rare cases.
  • The appearance of microtraumas of the cervical vertebrae.
  • Deterioration in the transport of food to the fetus and the removal of carbon dioxide. As a result, a delay in the intrauterine development of the baby.
  • Hypoxia or asphyxia during or before childbirth. In this case, an emergency caesarean section is prescribed.
  • Possible postpartum consequences for the fetus: hypertension and frequent headaches, osteochondrosis, fatigue, etc.

As for the risk of entanglement of limbs (for example, legs), here the percentage of mothers whose pregnancy was not affected by the entanglement in any way is even higher, because it is much easier to disentangle the arms and legs from the umbilical cord.

Therefore, even on an ultrasound scan, such cases usually cannot be recorded.

Gynecologist Olga Iosifovna Sikirina

Commentary by a gynecologist-endocrinologist, mammologist, ultrasound specialist Sikirina Olga Iosifovna:

In my rich obstetric practice, I had to see a 4-fold tight umbilical cord entanglement of the newborn’s neck, and – nothing, they quickly untangled.

And the umbilical cord entwinement of the legs is not worth mentioning at all. At least wrap yourself all over, wrap yourself with an umbilical cord (and I had to see this), if only not tight around the neck.

The main reasons for the umbilical cord entanglement of the neck, limbs or the body of the fetus – can it be avoided?

Why does entanglement arise, and what are the true reasons?

Unfortunately, no one can tell you the exact reason.

But it is believed that entanglement can lead …

  • Oxygen and nutritional deficiencies. In search of “food” the baby actively moves in the womb, entangled in the umbilical cord.
  • Excessive fetal activity, which leads to the entanglement of the umbilical cord in a knot and its shortening.
  • Deficiency of the mother’s motor activity.
  • Mom’s bad habits. With her abuse of cigarettes or alcohol, the child experiences oxygen starvation. Oxygen deficiency makes the baby move more actively.
  • Mom’s stress and depression. The higher the level of adrenaline in mother’s blood, the higher the activity of the fetus.
  • Polyhydramnios. In this case, there is enough room for the fetus to move, and the chances of entanglement in the umbilical cord and its tightening increase significantly.
  • The umbilical cord is too long. It also happens.
  • Pathology or illness of the mother. For example, diabetes, any infectious processes, kidney and heart disease, and so on.

The umbilical cord entwined around the neck of the fetus in the picture

Diagnostics of the umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus with ultrasound – can there be signs and symptoms of entanglement?

If the doctor gives the expectant mother a referral for an ultrasound scan, then, of course, you should not neglect it. It is on the ultrasound examination that the doctor gets the opportunity to monitor the pregnancy and the condition of the fetus.

With an ultrasound in the early stages, it will be possible to determine whether the fetus is entwined with the umbilical cord, and at a later date, whether the baby has managed to get rid of the loop.

Also, when entwining, they carry out …

  • Dopplerometry. It is usually performed using the same equipment used for ultrasound. This procedure allows you to determine the presence of entanglement, its frequency, as well as the state of blood flow in the umbilical cord itself. With a lack of nutrition, noted during the study, the specialist prescribes certain drugs to improve blood supply.
  • Cardiotocography. This procedure helps to track the baby’s mobility and heart rate. To assess the real picture, it takes about an hour, during which experts check – with what frequency the fetal heart beats when it moves. Abnormalities may indicate an increased risk of oxygen deprivation.


  1. In the absence of a threat to the life of the baby, noted as a result of research, experts do not take any action Firstly, often babies themselves get out of their umbilical cords even before childbirth, and secondly, the most crucial moment will still come during childbirth. And before childbirth, only monitoring the condition of the baby is required.
  2. The diagnosis “entanglement”, delivered at 20-21 weeks, does not pose any threat: The chances of a child unraveling the umbilical cord on their own are still extremely high.
  3. The diagnosis “entanglement” after 32 weeks is also not a sentence and not a reason for panic., but only the reason is to treat your condition more carefully and follow all the doctor’s prescriptions.
  4. Of course, when you enter the maternity hospital about entanglement, you should notify your doctor (if suddenly there is no such information in the medical record).

On what grounds can a mother independently suspect an entanglement?

There are no specific signs – other than those that the doctor finds from the results of the above procedures – do not exist.

But if you listen to the behavior of your puzzler, you can feel that the baby has become too lethargic – or, on the contrary, too active.

Any changes in fetal behavior are, of course, a reason – to make an additional visit to your gynecologist!

What to do when the fetus is entwined with the umbilical cord?

What to do when the umbilical cord is entwined – features of the tactics of childbirth when the fetus is entwined with the umbilical cord

Most births diagnosed with entanglement are easy: the midwife simply carefully removes the umbilical cord from the baby’s neck (approx. – or legs, arms) when it is born.

With tight entanglement, and even more so – with multiple and combined, when the baby is tightly entangled with the umbilical cord, and the risk of hypoxia or even strangulation increases, doctors usually decide on an emergency caesarean section.

During the entire process of childbirth, the baby’s heartbeat is monitored especially closely, monitoring every 30 minutes or even more often. In addition, they are intensively monitored using ultrasound and Doppler.

  • With a normal fetal heartbeat throughout the entire labor process, specialists usually decide on a natural birth. If the heart rhythm is disturbed, the doctor prescribes special medications designed to stimulate labor.
  • There is no need to panic that “something will go wrong.” For this emergency, specialists, who, of course, are aware of the umbilical cord entanglement of the baby, are ready to quickly perform a cesarean section and quickly remove the baby.

What should a mother who was diagnosed with an umbilical cord entanglement of the fetus with an ultrasound scan?

First of all, don’t panic or worry. Mom’s stresses always harm the baby, and when entwined, these mother’s experiences are all the more unnecessary (they stimulate the growth of adrenaline in mother’s blood).

Mom is recommended …

  • Eat right – and not overeat.
  • To live an active lifestyle.
  • Categorically give up all bad habits.
  • Walk more often in the fresh air.
  • Do not be nervous.
  • Do breathing exercises.
  • Ventilate the room more often.

And, of course, listen to less “useful advice of friends” about the treatment of entanglement with folk recipes.

Listen to your doctor!

All information in this article is provided for educational purposes only, it may not correspond to the specific circumstances of your health, and is not a medical recommendation. The с website reminds you that you should never delay or ignore your visit to a doctor!

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