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What is amniotic fluid embolism?

While giving birth to a baby in Pennsylvania is usually a very safe process, the possibility of perinatal or postnatal complications is always present. An amniotic fluid embolism is a rare but potentially life-threatening condition that can develop while you are giving birth or just afterward. 

Amniotic fluid is the liquid that surrounds your baby while in the womb. According to the Mayo Clinic, an amniotic fluid embolism occurs when the fluid enters your bloodstream. This condition is poorly understood, but a breakdown of the placental barrier, possibly resulting from trauma, is a likely cause. 

Regardless of what causes the breakdown, the result may be abnormal clotting in your lungs from an inflammatory reaction by your immune system, resulting in symptoms such as seizure or loss of consciousness, rapid or arrhythmic heartbeat, shortness of breath or low blood pressure. An amniotic fluid embolism can threaten the lives of you and your baby and requires immediate treatment. Treatments may include oxygen, blood transfusion, catheter placement and medications to support and improve your heart function.

Several risk factors may contribute to the formation of an amniotic fluid embolism, according to research. These risk factors include the following: 

  • Polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid)
  • Labor induction
  • Placental abnormalities
  • Advanced maternal age (35 or older)
  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Cesarean section
  • Vacuum extraction
  • Forceps delivery

Due to its seriousness, an amniotic fluid embolism may send you to the intensive care unit. Depending on the extent of your complications, you may require a lengthy stay of weeks or even months in the hospital following an amniotic fluid embolism. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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