Amniotic fluid embolism is a rare but serious condition that occurs when amniotic fluid â the fluid that surrounds a baby in the uterus during pregnancy â or fetal material, such as fetal cells, enters the mother's bloodstream. Amniotic fluid embolism is most likely to occur during delivery or immediately afterward.
Amniotic fluid embolism is difficult to diagnose. If your doctor suspects you might have amniotic fluid embolism, you'll need immediate treatment to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
Amniotic fluid embolism develops suddenly and rapidly.
Signs and symptoms of amniotic fluid embolism might include:
Amniotic fluid embolism occurs when amniotic fluid or fetal material enters the mother's bloodstream. Why this happens isn't well understood. A likely cause is a breakdown in the placental barrier, such as from trauma.
When this breakdown happens, the immune system responds by releasing products that cause an inflammatory reaction, activating abnormal clotting in the mother's lungs and blood vessels that can result in a serious blood-clotting disorder known as disseminated intravascular coagulation.
However, amniotic fluid embolisms are rare â and it's likely that some amniotic fluid commonly enters the mother's bloodstream during delivery without causing problems. It's not clear why in some cases this leads to amniotic fluid embolism.
Further research on what causes amniotic fluid embolisms is needed.
The diagnosis of amniotic fluid embolism is based on a doctor's evaluation. A diagnosis is typically made after other conditions have been ruled out. In some cases, a diagnosis is only made after maternal death. Your health care provider might order the following lab tests during your evaluation:
Amniotic fluid embolism can cause serious complications for you and your baby.
If you have amniotic fluid embolism, you're at increased risk of:
Experiencing a life-threatening pregnancy condition can be frightening and stressful for you and your family. You and your baby might experience serious complications and require lengthy hospital stays.
Amniotic fluid embolism is a medical emergency, leaving you no time to prepare. If you're concerned about your risk of amniotic fluid embolism, talk with your doctor. Keep in mind, however, that amniotic fluid embolisms are rare, unpredictable and unpreventable.
During this challenging time, lean on loved ones for support. Consider joining a survivors' network. Also, work with your health care provider to determine how you can safely manage your recovery and your role as the mother of a newborn.
Amniotic fluid embolisms are rare, which makes it difficult to identify risk factors. It's estimated that there are between 1 and 12 cases of amniotic fluid embolism for every 100,000 deliveries.
Research suggests that several factors might be linked to an increased risk of amniotic fluid embolism, however, including: