CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

Two-Vessel Cord

Found out there are only two blood vessels in baby’s umbilical cord? Here’s what exactly it means for you and baby throughout your pregnancy.
save article
profile picture of Brian Iriye, MD
Updated March 2, 2017
Hero Image
Image: Paul Viant GettyImages

What is a two-vessel umbilical cord?

Most babies’ umbilical cords have three blood vessels: one vein, which brings nutrients from the  placenta to baby, and two arteries that bring waste back to the placenta. But a two-vessel cord has just one vein and one artery — that’s why the condition is also referred to as having a single umbilical artery.

What are the signs of a two-vessel umbilical cord?

There usually aren’t any before it’s diagnosed.

Are there any tests for a two-vessel umbilical cord?

Yes. During your midpregnancy ultrasound, the doctor will check to see whether there are three vessels in the umbilical cord.

How common is a two-vessel umbilical cord?

It’s much more common than you probably think it is — it happens in about 1 to 1.5 percent of all pregnancies.

How did I get a two-vessel umbilical cord?

We wish we had answers, but there’s no known cause of a two-vessel cord.

How will my two-vessel umbilical cord affect my baby?

In most cases, it won’t: The one artery just makes up for what the missing one would do. However, there’s a slight increase in risk of growth problems and a minimal increase in risk of stillbirth.

You should also be aware that baby’s kidneys and heart develop at the same time as the umbilical cord does, so there’s also a slight increase in risk of abnormalities to those organs. Your doctor will look closely at the kidneys and heart and may have a specialist give baby an echocardiogram in the late  second trimester to be sure everything’s okay.

There used to be a belief that a two-vessel cord signaled an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome, but that’s actually not true — those would be more likely to be signaled by other symptoms, and your doc would look at other factors to diagnose something like that. Most of the time, baby’s perfectly healthy.

Related Video

See Next Page for treatments, prevention and more advice.

What’s the best way to treat a two-vessel umbilical cord?

You won’t need to treat it, but the doc will monitor baby’s organs and growth closely to make sure everything’s okay — and to be sure there’s adequate blood flow to baby’s heart and brain.

What can I do to prevent a two-vessel umbilical cord?

Sorry, but you can’t.

*What do other pregnant moms do when they have a two-vessel umbilical cord?
*
 
“I was diagnosed with a two-vessel cord at my 22-week ultrasound. They sent me to a perinatologist for further workup of this (among other things), and they looked super-close at her heart and kidneys, and said that sometimes it can be a sign of kidney or heart problems, but that if everything was there and formed correctly, there was little to be worried about. Since she looks great, they’ll just keep an eye on her size.”

“I am currently 19 weeks, and I just found out on Monday that I have a two vessel cord… But I’m going for a second opinion because the specialist I’m seeing is a bit of an alarmist and scared the crap out of me. I don’t want to stress out, because I know that’s not healthy for the baby.”

“My daughter had a two-vessel cord, diagnosed at our 20-week growth scan. They sent me to a pediatric cardiologist to do an extra scan of her heart, and all was well. They also double-checked her size a few times to ensure her growth was keeping up. However, I’m not sure if we would’ve had so many checks if we weren’t having twins.”

Are there any other resources for two-vessel umbilical cord?

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

pregnant woman at doctor's office
Baby Is Coming: What to Know About Cervical Dilation
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
doctor examining pregnant woman's belly for membrane sweep
What Is a Membrane Sweep—and How Can It Induce Labor?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
evening primrose oil
Is It Safe to Induce Labor With Evening Primrose Oil?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
mother who just gave birth holding newborn baby in hospital bed
Expert Tips for How to Prevent Tearing During Birth
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
couple packing hospital bag for birth
Hospital Bag Checklist: What to Pack in Hospital Bag
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman doing exercises to induce labor
Exercises to Help Induce Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
What Does It Mean to Have a Breech Baby?
What Does It Mean to Have a Breech Baby?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman with IV in arm during labor
The Lowdown on Using Pitocin During Labor
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
close up of newborn baby sleeping on mother's chest after labor and delivery
The Best Labor and Delivery Gowns for Comfort and Convenience
By Christin Perry
pregnant woman sitting in bed
How to Do Perineal Massage to Prepare for a Vaginal Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman sitting at home
What to Know About the Transverse Baby Position
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting in bed holding belly
What Does Baby's Fetal Station in Labor and Delivery Mean?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
mother holding newborn baby after giving birth in hospital
What Happens Right After Baby Is Born?
By Liz Callahan Schnabolk
ADVERTISEMENT
man helping woman through labor and delivery
9 Ways to Support Your Birthing Partner During Labor and Delivery
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
woman in labor with eyes closed
A Quick Guide to HypnoBirthing and Its Techniques
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman in active labor in hospital bed
What Is Active Labor?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
smiling same sex female couple sitting together and looking at one of their pregnant bumps
What You Need to Know About a Mucus Plug
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman going through labor in hospital
What Does Back Labor Feel Like?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman sitting at home looking at ultrasound photos
What Is Considered a Full-Term Pregnancy—and Why Does It Matter?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
close up of pregnant woman sitting in passenger seat of car
What Is Precipitous Labor? (and What to Do if It Begins)
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List