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Amniotic fluid embolism, Complication of labor and birth, Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy, Postpartum hemorrhage



  1. Sundin, Courtney Stanley MSN, RNC-OB
  2. Mazac, Lauren Bradham BSN, RNC-OB


Abstract: Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is a rare but serious and potentially deadly complication of pregnancy that is unpreventable and unpredictable. Most AFE events occur during labor; however, approximately one third happen during the immediate postpartum period. Presentation is abrupt and thought to be an abnormal response to fetal materials entering maternal circulation through the placental insertion site. Care providers must recognize the signs and symptoms of AFE and react quickly to treat potential complications. This can be challenging as there are no set diagnostic criteria or specific laboratory tests. Generally, the diagnosis is based on clinical status when the classic triad of hypoxia, hypotension, and subsequent coagulopathy are noted in a laboring woman or woman who just gave birth, and no other plausible explanation can be determined. Proper treatment of AFE requires a multidisciplinary approach to decrease maternal morbidity and mortality. Knowledge, simulation, and familiarization of a Massive Obstetric Transfusion protocol can help all members of the perinatal team recognize and respond to women with AFE in a timely and effective manner. A case study is presented of a woman with a seemingly normal obstetric course that became complicated rapidly following development of an AFE.