Yes, about 30% of babies are born with the cord around the neck. it is normal and almost always not a problem at all (unless it is a TV show then it is a matter of life and death :)
There is nothing you can do to prevent it prenatelly.
Babies don't breathe until after they're born, they get their air through the blood supply in the cord so it only matters that the cord isn't getting squished (rare to happen since it's got that Wharton's Jelly cushioning the blood vessels and amniotic fluid cushioning the baby). There's a silly old wives' tale about "don't raise your arms above your head when pregnant or the cord with strangle the baby."
From my recent research, I've actually found that it's good for the umbilical cord to be wrapped around the baby (neck or elsewhere) because it prevents cord prolapse, which IS an actual emergency. Sometimes a short cord wrapped around the neck can make for a slower delivery, but you can feel the baby's neck, after the head has been born, and if you can feel the cord, gently pull it over the baby's head to get you a little more give. I personally feel that doctors sometimes make a big deal out of a cord wrapped around the neck to transfer responsibility squarely onto the mother and baby, especially when the actual cause of fetal distress was iatrogenic (medically caused). They know that most people believe the myth (and heck, maybe they believe it too) that a nuchal cord is an emergency, so using that very common occurrence serves their purpose of covering their hineys if the baby's lack of oxygen was caused by pitocin contractions, mother in lithotomy position, or drug reactions. The mom believes the doctor and doesn't look any further than that wrapped umbilical cord.
Well, of my nine live born babies, the cord was wrapped around the neck nine times. From once all the way up to three times. Never had a problem. So, from my experience, it is always likely to happen.
they are placed there for the amusement of those who like to point them out.
This is a great article about nuchal cords http://midwifethinking.com/2010/07/29/nuchal-cords/
mom to all boys B: 08/01, C: 07/05 , N: 03/09 , M: 01/12 and far too many lost ones
during my first UC my ds had the cord around his neck. I felt it when his head came out and simply and gently pulled it over his head. he was fine. :) 2nd uciing any day now
2 Perfect births!. .
3 babes in heaven , 3 boys on earth. Planning UC #3 !!! Jesus is my Lord