Cord prolapse is when the baby's umbilical cord - which supplies its oxygen and nutrients - prolapses or slips through the opening cervix in front of the baby.
This is a rare complication but is more likely to occur in preterm labour, when the waters break before 36 weeks, when the baby's head is sitting high above the pelvis, or the baby is lying across the uterus - not up and down.
Cord prolapse only occurs after the bag of waters (membranes) has broken and the cervix is beginning to open.
In this situation, your midwife or doctor will change your position, tilting you head-down on the bed. This is to relieve any physical pressure from the cord. It may move the baby further up into the uterus.
The aim of treatment is to reduce as much as possible the pressure or compression of the baby's cord so the baby can continue to get oxygen and nutrients until delivery can occur. Most commonly, the baby is delivered rapidly by caesarean section.
Occasionally the cord has prolapsed through a fully opened cervix. In this situation, the baby may be delivered very quickly with the use of forceps.
In these extreme situations the baby is often born tired and requires some initial oxygen and breathing support. How well the baby does will depend on how long the cord was prolapsed for, how much compression there was and the gestational age of the baby.
By Kate Dyer