What Is A Hypercoiled Umbilical Cord? Symptoms And Treatment

When the umbilical cord gets too coiled and twisted, the condition is known as hypercoiled umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is the lifeline of the baby; it connects the placenta to the fetus. It is approximately 50 cm long and as thick as the middle finger.

It comprises of one vein and two arteries.

The vein carries arterial blood i.e. oxygenated blood which consists of oxygen and nutrients from the mother to the fetus, whilst the two arteries carry the metabolic waste and carbon dioxide from the fetus to the mother.

A normal umbilical cord is curled up like a telephone cord. If there are too many coils it is known as hypercoiled umbilical cord. When there are too few coils, it is a hypocoiled umbilical cord.

The classification is based up on:

  • Less than the 10th percentile – hypocoiled
  • 10th to 90th percentile – normocoiled
  • More than the 90th percentile – hypercoiled

It is very essential that the umbilical cord should be normocoiled; a hypercoiled as well as a hypocoiled umbilical cord can have a detrimental outcome, because of a reduction in the quantity of nutrients which the fetus receives, and this could consequently result in intrauterine growth retardation which increases the risk of poor fetal development or a stillbirth.

Causes Of Hypercoiled Umbilical Cord

There is no known cause for the occurrence of hypercoiled umbilical cord. Probable explanations range from the mother’s age, her overall health, fetal movements; but they are not definite.

By and large, a hypercoiled umbilical cord is detected between the 21st week and the last month of pregnancy. It may occur suddenly and in a pregnancy where the fetus or the mother did not show any signs of problems.

Symptoms Of Hypercoiled Umbilical Cord

There are no specific obvious symptoms. An indication that something is wrong is that the baby is having poor and slow development. The presence of numerous coils reduces the flow of blood to the fetus and this adversely afflicts the growth of the fetus and consequently, the fetus has growth restriction and the fetal movements are weak as well.

To settle on whether a hypercoiled umbilical cord is the cause for the poor fetal growth, a more elaborate ultrasound scan needs to be carried out to assess the umbilical cord and a non-stress test needs to be done which measures the fetal heart rate.

On the other hand, there are no physical signs and symptoms in the mother which can help the doctor to spot the likelihood of a hypercoiled umbilical cord.

Treatment Of Hypercoiled Umbilical Cord

Science is definitely advancing; however, it has not developed a treatment regimen to manage a hypercoiled umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is, by nature, coiled up – hence, a hypercoiled umbilical cord will not always cause fetal death. There are no existing treatments now, so if you find out that you have an umbilical cord that is exceptionally coiled does not mean that the condition can be remedied.

Nevertheless, if it is the last month of pregnancy, your OB/GYN may discuss with you whether to opt for having a C section or continuing to observe the fetus for a while. There is nothing else that the mother or the doctor can do for the fetus.