'Cord Around the Neck' Shouldn't Mean C-Section


newborn belly button"He could have died if I'd had a home birth -- his cord was around his neck." You've heard that, right? Heard people also say that their baby wasn't breathing at birth, because the cord was there, or that their baby had medical issues, even anemia or brain damage due to the cord?

However, it appears that we shouldn't be as terrified of this. A cord around baby's neck is actually very, very common. As in, 1 in 5 babies are born with the cord around their neck, and rarely is it ever a problem. But despite that, many doctors are still doing c-sections or manually yanking the cord over the head, which actually is risky for both us and our babies. Yikes.

There are two kinds of "nuchal cord." Type A, the most common, has the cord around the neck, sometimes even multiple times, but isn't "locked" in any fashion. Type B, which happens much less often, in 1 in 50 births instead, is where the cord has "locked." This one is the one that can be responsible for issues.

Out of the 22.85 percent of births where the cord goes around the neck, almost all of them are only one little loop, which has shown no risk really whatsoever, no negative outcome for baby, no increase in admittance to the NICU or in interference from the doctor. In other words, it's normal, and it happens, and we need to stop freaking out about it.

Rachel Reed of Midwife Thinking explains how movement in pregnancy or normal rotation coming down the birth canal can wrap the cord around the neck, and it's not a concern. She even shows a technique for vaginally delivering a baby whose umbilical cord is short, though she also notes that as the placenta is squished down with the baby and uterus, the umbilical cord obviously moves down with everything, making this a rare issue as well.

The part she really stresses, though, is that if a baby comes out not breathing, remember that they're still receiving oxygen through their cord, not their mouth. Also as we know, if for some reason a baby does need resuscitation, keeping the cord ATTACHED can be the difference between life and death, or at least brain damage or not.

Commonly, lots of us have seen or had someone reach up in the vagina as baby's head becomes visible, feel for a nuchal cord, and slip it off if it's present. But even aside from Rachel's traumatic experience where that maneuver caused the cord to snap and spray blood in her face, it's also unnecessary and can actually cause the cord to start restricting blood flow, tear the placenta/the umbilical site on the baby, or damage the cord.

Of course, the Type B I mentioned can rarely cause some scary issues, but considering you have a very, very good chance that seeing a cord around the neck is normal and okay, according to both midwives and scientific studies, it is actually safer to not go pulling on the baby's head, and not cut the cord until you know the situation. Especially when messing with a Type A can cause more problems than it helps. Not surprisingly, another "get your hands off" situation. Seems really contrary to TV shows, which always freak out about it, doesn't it?

Did your baby have the cord around their neck? If you are pregnant, are you worried about this? What would you opt to do?


Image via jencu/Flickr

complications, delivery, labor, labor & delivery


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SandM... SandMsMama

my second had his cord around his neck, and my mom was convinced that's why he was all purple... I told her "mom, I know you have given birth, THAT'S HOW I GOT HERE. Do you not remember babies can't breathe through their mouths until they come OUT?!" She's still not convinced...

anyway, doctors are so quick to call a section, it's ridic. I'm never going back to a hospital

Jen Young

My baby had his cord wrapped twice, but they didn't know, only suspected. His heart rate dropped every time I pushed, so we basically just got me to push as hard as I could and get him out of there quickly. No C-section for me, but they had the vacuum ready to go in case I couldn't get him out of there quickly enough.

Xakana Xakana

My second had a nuchal cord. The doctor carefully moved it as she was coming out and there was no problem whatsoever--not an emergency at all, he just asked me to rest for a moment to untangle it. No tugging, it was just gently slipped over her head. Since basically every doctor or midwife I've known (that isn't some dumb fear-mongerer) suggests to untangle it that way, never even occurred to me to not just relax and let him do it.

Stefanie Vasturo

All three of my children had the cord wrapped around their necks- two of them more than once- and my 3rd WAS a home birth =) No issues from any of it!

Chaya Krell

My granddaughter's cord was wrapped around her neck.  Having no idea how common this can be or that it's not necessarily an emergency, I started to panic.  The midwife very calmly allowed my granddaughter to be born and then slowly unwrapped the cord. No emergency, no trouble breathing, no problems. I was amazed at how calm the midwife remained through everything.  I thought I would be okay with the "hands-off" approach but I have to admit there were times I was nervous for both my daughter and the baby.  But after watching both my grandchildren born with midwives (first in a birthing center; second at home), I am now thoroughly convinced of the wisdom of a "hands-off" approach!!


If my doctor recommended a Cesarean, that's what I'd get. I pay him to give me guidance and I wouldn't want to take any chances. If you don't trust your doctor then you should see someone else.

Amy Lee Gove

We had no idea that the cord was wrapped around my daughters neck 3 times until soon after I started pushing. My blood pressure dropped dramatically and my daughters heartbeat was no longer detectable. I was given 3 or 4 doses of something in my iv for my blood pressure and to strictly follow my doctors instructions for how hard and when to push. We had to wait a little while for the "cry of good health" but she was and is perfectly fine! (And so am I!) I am grateful that I had an experienced doctor there.

Tara Dukaczewicz

You're right,  a cord around the neck doesn't warrant a c/s but sometimes it does and someone who is just an online writer and not a doctor,nurse or midwife shouldn't be giving out any kind of medical advice. It is irresponsible and inappropriate. If someone takes your advice instead of their caregiver's and loses their baby are you going to take responsibility? I realize that you need topics to write about but you should also realize what an impact your words may have. To you it's a job, to someone else it's real life. You should take this more seriously.

Ninja... NinjaRainbow

My oldest Goddaughter lost her left hand because the umbilical cord was locked around it and her neck. I spent alot of time in NICU worrying about her. I know how scary it is and you should trust the doctor a little bit on this, he probably won't mind if you ask to see what happens.

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