Baby Hints & Tips

Single Umbilical Artery

single umbilical artery

Finding out that you might have SUA or single umbilical artery can be a challenging time. Of course you are worried for your baby and possible complications that can arise.

Here’s all the resources you need to understand what this is and how it’s treated – plus some helpful tips shared by our online community. 

(Medical disclaimer: Tips provided need to be considered in conjunction with medical advice. For immediate concerns, please contact HealthDirect (Australia wide) ph 1800 022 222 – to talk to a registered nurse 24hrs a day, and in emergencies call 000.)

What is single umbilical artery? 

A umbilical cord usually has two arteries, in single umbilical artery (SUA) there is only one artery in the umbilical cord.  The umbilical cord is formed between days 13 and 38 after conception.   Occasionally a second artery does not develop or wastes away (atrophies).   SUA is more common in multiple pregnancies. This one in one hundred occurrence can but does not always bring complications. 

Possible obstetric complications of single umbilical artery

  • 50% of fetuses with SUA have a chromosomal abnormality
  • SUA increases mortality to 22% due to the congenital malformations associated with it. 
  • Babies born with SUA and no congenital abnormalities often have no problems, however they may be of a smaller body weight

single umbilical artery

Possible paediatric complications of single umbilical artery

Better Safer Care notes the following possible paediatric complications: 

  • An isolated SUA is associated with renal malformations in 7-9 per cent of infants. Vesicoureteric reflux (VUR) is the most common abnormality occurring in 4 per cent of infants with an isolated SUA.
  • In a meta analysis of 26 studies the incidence of any renal abnormality associated with isolated SUA was 8 per cent, with only 4 per cent requiring treatment of the abnormality. From this meta analysis the investigation of 14 cases of isolated SUA would yield one patient requiring treatment.
  • In another study VUR was also the most common abnormality requiring treatment and three out of five of their patients had a urinary tract infection (UTI) before the age of three months.

Management of SUA

  • Prenatal management is through more frequent monitoring and chromosomal testing may be recommended. 
  • Postnatal management of SUA involves assessment for congenital abnormalities and if none found generally standard monitoring. 

For more information on Single Umbilical Artery you can also see these links: 

Our community shared their experiences on SUA in response to a community question – here’s what they had to say*: 

(Please note community responses are NOT medical advice and are only other parents sharing their own experience) 

Does anyone have an information or personal experience with SUA (single umbilical artery)? We found out at our 18 week scan that our bub has this but at that stage everything else looked healthy and ‘normal’. I am currently 22 weeks and will be having another scan at 24 weeks to check things over again and to ensure bubs is growing ok. I live semi-remotely and feel like I haven’t been able to get a lot of information.

  • I was diagnosed with SUA and I researched the absolute hell out of it. I was out in a remote town and it was if it wasn’t a common thing and I stressed out so much. I transfered down to a Brisbane hospital and they were so chill about it and said it’s really normal. All it means is that bub MAY have a low birth weight and some complications after birth ie kidney issues MAY occur. But so far my 4 month old baby is perfectly healthy and born at 8 pound. He met every milestone he was meant to during pregnancy and continues to do so now.
    All they did during my natural spontaneous birth was monitor bub a little closely during labour and delivery. During labour in a “normal” pregnancy, one artery cuts out and leaves one pumping until the placenta has been delivered. I had a monitor on placenta and on bub. During pregnancy I had a few extra scans and most of these were towards the last couple of months just to check progress.
    You’ll find its so common. We only know about it today due to the technology but the reality is, you could have been a baby with SUA, your mother could have been, even your mothers grandmother could have been. Don’t stress. Everything will be perfectly normal. Ash

  • My first son who is now a healthy, vibrant and normal 2 year old had a SUA I was worried and made the mistake of googling it and this only made my worry worse. So please don’t let what you google upset you because when I spoke with my midwife she explained that usually the baby and mother are fine and healthy it’s on the odd occasion that there can be problems. Low birth weight, early labour, kidney problems etc. My son came 8 days early, was a natural birth with no complications, he weighed 7 pounds and has absolutely nothing wrong with him smile emoticon I know it may worry you as it did me so id suggest talking with your midwife and I’m sure she will help put you at ease. Xxxx Katie

  • I had one umbilical artery with my son. Was picked up at 12 week scan and there were growth concerns. I had regular scans and was monitored a little more closely as he had one enlarged kidney with excess fluid as a result of the one umbilical artery, then a month after birth he had to have an ultrasound, then again every couple months (incl one with catheter to check for reflux of kidney), then it went to 6 monthly and now at 22 months it’s gone to yearly until he turns 5. That’s all if it stays same or gets better. Obviously if it gets worse plans may change but so far so good. Peta

  • My bub had only one umbilical artery but everything else showed as normal. I googled it and scared the hell out of myself. Premature birth,small birth weight and kidney problems were three things that stuck out but thankfully she is now 14 months old and touch wood is completely fine. My water sid break at 34 +4 weeks and i gave birth at 35 weeks via emergency c-section. She weighed 4.7pound (2.1kg). She was in special care for 5 days then got to come home. Not sure why my water broke etc,may have had something to do with it but I will never know! just glad my bubba is healthy. Don’t stress too much and good luck. Jade

  • Don’t google the information is so outdated. It is common in pregnancy. You’ll be monitored for growth, follow your instincts if you feel you’re not growing enough get checked out. My pregnancy ended in premature labour and very small birth weight but no health issues due to the SUA. Monika
  • My little man had this. My obstetrician said not to worry so I never bothered googling it or stressing. He was 9lb 14oz at 39 weeks and is a happy and healthy 11 week old bub now. Don’t stress! Sonya

  • I also found out I had SUA at 18 weeks. I was given fortnightly ultrasounds to ensure baby was growing. I went 3 days over having a healthy baby girl weighing 9.2 pound. Cindy

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