Cardiac Arrest During Childbirth More Frequent Than Reported

Infant at ChildbirthAlthough cardiac arrest during childbirth is rare, a new study in the journal Anesthesiology suggests that the condition may be two times more common than previously reported.

Cardiac arrest, also known as cardiopulmonary arrest or circulatory arrest, occurs when the heart fails to contract effectively, resulting in the cessation of normal circulation of the blood. Cardiac arrest during childbirth results from excessive bleeding, heart failure, heart attack, preeclampsia, blood infection, and amniotic fluid embolism – all of which can cause irregular heart rhythms or reduce the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Symptoms include sudden loss of responsiveness and abnormal breathing.

When the condition occurs during childbirth, cardiac arrest can be fatal for both mother and baby. Cardiac arrest during childbirth can result in stillbirth. To prevent a negative birth outcome, doctors typically perform an emergency Cesarean section in an attempt to save the baby. However, studies indicate that a C-section should be performed within five minutes of maternal cardiac arrest to avoid any neurological problems in the child.

For the present study, the researchers examined data on more than 56 million hospital births and discovered that 4,843 cardiac arrests occurred. Thus, cardiac arrest during childbirth occurs in one in every 11,749 births, which is twice as many as previously reported in literature.

The researchers also noted that survival of maternal cardiac arrest improved from 52 percent in 1998 to 60% percent in 2011. The survival rate from cardiac arrest during childbirth is also higher than previously reported.

States lead author Jill M. Mhyre, M.D., associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Arkansas, “These are rare high-stakes events on obstetric units, and team preparation is critical to ensure that everyone is ready to act quickly and effectively. Fortunately, physician anesthesiologists are experts in leading resuscitation teams for maternal cardiac arrest and other emergencies that happen on the labor floor.”


Adds Mhyre, “A 60 percent rate of survival from cardiac arrest is good, but maternal mortality in the United States remains unacceptably high. This information will assist health care providers to deliver the most effective maternal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) when both the mother’s and baby’s lives are on the line.”

The researchers also found that the main cause of cardiac arrest during childbirth was excessive bleeding, which accounted for 47.7 percent of all cases. Heart failure accounted for 13.3 percent of cases, amniotic fluid embolism for 13.3 percent of case, and blood infection for 11.2 percent of cases.

Older women, black women, and mothers receiving care funded by Medicaid had the highest risk of experiencing cardiac arrest during childbirth, indicating a possible socioeconomic cause for the condition.


References arrest during childbirth may be 2 times more common than previously reported:
More women experience cardiac arrest during childbirth than is reported:

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Written by Heather

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, homemaker, homeschooler, and mother.

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