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Philadelphia Med Mal & Birth Injury Lawyer / Blog / Birth Injury / Knotted Cord Injuries & Medical Malpractice

Knotted Cord Injuries & Medical Malpractice


This article explains the problems that can arise with a baby’s umbilical cord, what doctors can and should do if there are signs of a knotted cord, and whether a knotted cord qualifies as medical malpractice.

If your baby is suffering or was lost due to a knotted umbilical cord that went undiscovered by the doctor or was improperly or ineffectively treated by the doctor, you may have a medical malpractice case. Call Philadelphia birth injury lawyer Heidi Villari at 267-388-9429 to discuss your case, free of charge.

What Knotted Cord Means

A “knotted cord” refers to an umbilical cord that is either wrapped around itself or has a bulge or protrusion. Not every type of knotted cord is harmful to the fetus.

True Knots

True knots occur when the umbilical cord wraps around itself, forming a knot. As the baby grows, the knot may tighten and restrict the flow of blood and oxygen, which could cause brain damage or stunt growth or development. In a worst case scenario, a baby with a knotted umbilical cord could die from asphyxia.

False Knots (Pseudoknots)

False knots in the umbilical cord are bulges or protrusions in the umbilical cord which, while visible on an ultrasound, pose no threat to the fetus. They are likely caused by swollen blood vessels.

Knotted Cords & Malpractice

If a mother notices that the baby is less active around week 37, that may be a sign that there is a true knot in the umbilical cord. She should report this to her doctor as soon as she notices this. Whether an ultrasound shows a true knot or not, this requires heightened monitoring of the baby throughout the remainder of the pregnancy and the delivery.

If during labor, true knots form or tighten as the fetus positions for birth, the fetus may be in distress. The fetal heart monitor will likely show that the heart rate is abnormal. A C-section rather than vaginal birth gets the baby out of danger sooner, before they suffer irreversible damage due to oxygen deprivation.

Unfortunately, an ultrasound cannot expose all true knots because parts of the umbilical cord remain hidden behind the baby. Both mothers and their doctors must be vigilant throughout the pregnancy if there is any indication that there may be a true knot in the umbilical cord.

If a doctor or other medical professional dismisses a mother’s concerns, fails to perform testing, fails to adequately monitor the fetus’ health, fails to detect fetal distress, fails to schedule a C-section when necessary, or otherwise unreasonably delays recognition of or treatment for a knotted cord, and the baby suffers as a result, that may be medical malpractice.

Causes of Knotted Cords

How does an umbilical cord get knotted? Some true knots form during the delivery, but most true knots form in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. A baby has room to move around that early in the pregnancy and can loop the umbilical cord around itself while doing so.

Some factors that contribute to the likelihood of true knots forming include:

  • The baby is male
  • The baby is small
  • The baby is active
  • The mother is older
  • This is not the mother’s first pregnancy
  • The mother had amniocentesis performed
  • The mother has gestational diabetes
  • The mother has hydramnios
  • The umbilical cord is long
  • The mother is having twins or this is a multiple birth

Birth Injuries Resulting from Knotted Cord

The umbilical cord provides oxygen and nutrients to the fetus and carries its waste away. A knotted umbilical cord can deprive the fetus of oxygen, nutrients, and cause fetal acidosis (too much CO2 in the baby’s blood), causing:

  • Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE)
  • Restricted growth in utero
  • Developmental delays
  • Developmental and intellectual disabilities
  • Seizure disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Motor disorders
  • Still birth
  • Asphyxiation and death upon delivery

How a Birth Injury Lawyer Helps Your Case

If you’ve lost your baby due to injuries from a knotted cord, or your child is suffering from the effects of a knotted cord, call Philadelphia birth injury lawyer Heidi Villari for help. She will investigate and if the medical professionals involved were negligent in failing to recognize or treat for knotted cord, she will hold them accountable. Call 267-388-9429 or contact us to schedule your free consultation today.

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