Single Umbilical Artery (SUA)

Occasionally, there is only the one single umbilical artery (SUA) present in the umbilical cord.[1] This is sometimes also called a two-vessel umbilical cord, or two-vessel cord. Approximately, this affects between 1 in 100 and 1 in 500 pregnancies, making it the most common umbilical abnormality. Its cause is not known.

Most cords have one vein and two arteries. The vein carries oxygenated blood from the placenta to the baby and the arteries carry deoxygenated blood from the baby to the placenta. In approximately 1% of pregnancies there are only two vessels —usually a single vein and single artery. In about 75% of those cases, the baby is entirely normal and healthy. One artery can support a pregnancy and does not necessarily indicate problems. For the other 25%, a 2-vessel cord is a sign that the baby has other abnormalities—sometimes life-threatening and sometimes not.[2]

Doctors and midwives often suggest parents take the added precaution of having regular growth scans near term to rule out intrauterine growth restriction, which can happen on occasion and warrant intervention. Yet the majority of growth restricted infants with the abnormality also have other defects. Finally, neonates with the finding may also have a higher occurrence of renal problems, therefore close examination of the infant may be warranted shortly after birth. Among SUA infants, there is a slightly elevated risk for post-natal urinary infections.


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