Amniotic fluid embolism is a rare pregnancy  complication. This serious condition occurs when the amniotic fluid or fetal materials such as fetal cells enters the  mother’s bloodstream. This is most likely to occur  during delivery or immediately afterwards. This condition needs prompt treatment to prevent life threatening complications.


amniotic fluid embolism


What causes amniotic fluid embolism ?



The exact cause of this condition is not known. However it is likely to be caused by a breakdown of placenta barrier such as from trauma.


Some amniotic fluid enters the mother’s blood stream during delivery and causes no problems at all. It is however not clear why some lead to amniotic fluid embolism.


Who is at risk ?


You are at risk at this condition  if you fall into the following category.

What are the symptoms of amniotic fluid embolism ?


Symptoms appear suddenly and rapidly and include the following :

  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden low blood pressure
  • Sudden failure of the heart to pump blood effectively
  • Excessive fluid in the lungs ( pulmonary edema)
  • Severe problems with blood clotting
  • Fetal distress
  • Chills
  • Altered mental status such as anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate or disturbance in heart rhythm
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Sudden fetal heart rate abnormalities
  • Bleeding from the uterus, incision or intravenous IV sites

How is it treated ?


This condition requires prompt treatment to address low blood oxygen and low blood pressure. Emergency treatment include the following :

  • Catheter placement in which an arterial catheter is used to monitor your blood pressure and  central venous catheter is used to give fluids , medications and transfusions as well as draw blood
  • Breathing tube is inserted in your airways to help you breathe
  • Medications to improve and support heart function. Medications may also be used to decrease the pressure caused by the fluid going to your heart and lungs
  • You may be given blood transfusion if you’ve had uncontrolled bleeding

If you have this condition before delivery, your doctor’s goal will be to treat you and safely deliver your baby as soon as possible. You may need an emergency c-section.



This condition can lead to both maternal and fetal death if not treated promptly.


Content Sources
Amniotic fluid embolism. Healthline. Accessed January 7, 2016

Amniotic fluid embolism. Mayo Foundation. Accessed January 7, 2016

Amniotic fluid embolism. Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation. Accessed January 7, 2016


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