Groundbreaking Procedure Saves Mother’s Life During Childbirth

Groundbreaking Procedure Saves Mother's Life During Childbirth

A women at an Israeli hospital suffered a rare complication during childbirth, but miraculously, her medical team were able to save her life thanks to a groundbreaking new procedure.

The 43 year old mother suffered an amniotic fluid embolism during a c-section.

In addition to the amniotic fluid embolism, the woman also suffered from organ failure and cardiac arrest during the birth.

Doctors at the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva resuscitated the patient and connected her to the life-saving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) life support machine. Surgeons were then able to perform emergency heart surgery and remove the clot from the mother’s lungs.

What Is An Amniotic Fluid Embolism?

An amniotic pulmonary embolism occurs when amniotic fluid or fetal matter (such as hair) enters the mother’s bloodstream.

This condition is rare, but can have very serious consequences for both mother and child.

Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is fatal in as many as 80% of cases. It’s estimated that amniotic fluid embolisms are responsible for as many as 10% of maternal deaths in developed countries.

Large population-based studies reported AFEs occuring in 1 in 12,953 births in the United States, and 1 in 56,500 in the United Kingdom.

The condition is difficult to diagnose, and can be fatal within just an hour of the first symptoms appearing.

Studies have shown risk factors to be a maternal age of 35 years or older, c-section birth, forceps and vacuum assisted vaginal births, placenta previa, placental abruption, preclampsia, and fetal distress.

How Did The ECMO Help?

The ECMO machine acts as an artificial lung outside of the body. The machine removes carbon dioxide and oxygenates the blood before pumping it back round the body. The machine allows time for the patient’s heart and lungs to recover without starving other vital organs of oxygen.

ECMO machines are used around the world, although this is one of the first times it has been used to successfully save a woman’s life during childbirth.

ECMO machines are commonly used to treat children with heart or lung problems, as well as adults suffering from cardiac and respiratory failure.

An ECMO machine costs between $60,000 and $70,000, and are not owned by many Israeli hospitals.

Thanks to this life saving procedure, however, more Israeli hospitals will be investing in these machines.

How Is The New Mother Now?

The new mother is one of the first in the world to be saved during childbirth thanks to this procedure.

All childbirth requires a recovery period, however an amniotic fluid embolism has an understandably long recovery period.

The mother, who was brought back from clinical death, spent a few weeks on the ECMO machine before she was strong enough to be taken off it. The mother finally woke up a month after the birth, and was able to see her healthy baby girl.

Last Updated: August 21, 2015


Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.

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