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Amniotic Fluid Embolism

By

Julie S. Moldenhauer

, MD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Reviewed/Revised Jan 2024
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Amniotic fluid embolism occurs when some amniotic fluid that contains cells or tissue from the fetus enters a pregnant woman’s bloodstream and causes a serious reaction. (Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds the fetus in the uterus.) This reaction can damage the lungs and heart and cause excessive bleeding.

Amniotic fluid embolism is very rare. It usually occurs during late pregnancy but may occur when an abortion Abortion Induced abortion is the intentional ending of a pregnancy by surgery or medications. A pregnancy may be ended by surgically removing the contents of the uterus or by taking certain medications... read more is done during the first or second trimester. While rare, of women who die suddenly during labor, amniotic fluid embolism is one of the most likely causes.

Risk factors

Risk may be increased with

Symptoms of Amniotic Fluid Embolism

The fluid or tissue can cause a serious reaction in a pregnant woman. The reaction usually occurs during or shortly after labor and delivery. The woman may have a rapid heart rate, an irregular heart rhythm, low blood pressure, and difficulty breathing. She may stop breathing (respiratory failure Respiratory Failure Respiratory failure is a condition in which the level of oxygen in the blood becomes dangerously low or the level of carbon dioxide in the blood becomes dangerously high. Conditions that block... read more ), or her heart may stop (cardiac arrest Cardiac Arrest and CPR Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood and oxygen to the brain and other organs and tissues. Sometimes a person can be revived after cardiac arrest, particularly if treatment is... read more Cardiac Arrest and CPR ). The risk of death is high.

Diagnosis of Amniotic Fluid Embolism

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • Blood tests

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of amniotic fluid embolism are essential. Doctors may do blood tests to check the function of certain proteins that help the blood to clot normally.

Doctors diagnose amniotic fluid embolism based on symptoms, particularly when a woman has the following symptoms:

  • Sudden stopping of the heart

  • Sudden difficulty breathing

  • Low blood pressure

  • Widespread, uncontrolled bleeding

Treatment of Amniotic Fluid Embolism

  • Emergency care team

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • Medications used to induce contractions

  • Transfusion of blood and blood components

Amniotic fluid embolism is a life-threatening emergency and requires urgent care by a team of specialists with intensive care equipment.

Women with amniotic fluid embolism may be given a transfusion of blood and blood components. Injection of a blood clotting factor (which helps blood clot) may be lifesaving. Women may require assistance with breathing or medications to help the heart contract. CPR First-Aid Treatment for Cardiac Arrest Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood and oxygen to the brain and other organs and tissues. Sometimes a person can be revived after cardiac arrest, particularly if treatment is... read more First-Aid Treatment for Cardiac Arrest is often required.

Women are given medications used to induce contractions to help avoid excessive bleeding.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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