Single Umbilical Artery (SUA)

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The doctor who does your scan will probably be the one who notices if there is a single umbilical artery (SUA). A normal umbilical cord develops with two arteries and one vein. In some cases only one artery develops, which is called SUA. This is the most common malformation of the umbilical cord. On its own, SUA does not necessarily pose a risk to you or your baby as an umbilical cord with just one artery is sufficient to support a pregnancy to term. However, SUA does increase your baby’s risk for certain birth defects.

Some cases may only be diagnosed at birth and others might be seen on an ultrasound test.
Half to two-thirds of babies born with single artery umbilical cord are born healthy and with no chromosomal or congenital abnormalities.

The birth defects that may occur in the remainder are:
  • Chromosomal and/or other abnormalities.
  • Heart defects.
  • Gastrointestinal tract abnormalities.
  • Problems with the central nervous system.
  • The respiratory system, urinary tract, and musculoskeletal system may also be affected.

One in five babies affected by SUA will be born with multiple malformations. It is likely that you will receive a more thorough ultrasound scan in order to detect any abnormalities. A foetal echocardiogram may also be performed to check the health of your baby’s heart. In the presence of an otherwise reassuring prenatal ultrasound, the only other change to antenatal care one might make is a growth scan to make sure the baby is growing at a ‘normal’ rate toward the last month of pregnancy
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