What is the Meaning of Amniotic Fluid Embolism?

Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is a condition that can occur during labor or shortly after birth. Amniotic fluid embolism is rare and it occurs at a rate of about 1 in 20 000 births. Amniotic Fluid Embolism has been found to cause about 10% of maternal deaths worldwide and it is difficult to identify risk factors of amniotic fluid embolism. Actually, Amniotic fluid embolism is a main cause of death during labor or shortly after birth.

Sometimes it is known as the anaphylactoid syndrome of pregnancy. Amniotic Fluid Embolism is a pregnancy complication and it is rare to find. But it causes life-threatening conditions. So you should know about amniotic fluid embolism. It is a challenge for healthcare providers to identify this amniotic embolism.

amniotic fluid embolism

Actually, what is this amniotic fluid embolism? When amniotic fluid or fetal material enters the mother’s bloodstream during delivery or in the immediate postpartum period, we can call it as amniotic fluid embolism. What is amniotic fluid? Actually, it is the fluid that surrounds an unborn child. Not only the amniotic fluid but also the fetal cells, or other debris can enter the mother’s bloodstream. They can trigger a serious reaction in the mother’s bloodstream.

Massive bleeding and cardiorespiratory collapse are the main results of this reaction.

What are the main symptoms of AFE?

Actually, it is very important to know about the symptoms of amniotic fluid embolism. Although amniotic fluid embolism is a rare disease, it can affect your baby, you, or both of you. 

Also, it might develop suddenly. 

  • Lose consciousness
  • Difficult to breathe and sudden shortness of breath
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Skin discoloration
  • Changes in the fetal heart rate 
  • Sudden low blood pressure
  • decreased movement in the womb

If a woman has an amniotic fluid embolism, her heart can suddenly fail to pump blood effectively. It is a very dangerous situation because it can be a life-threatening problem. It is very difficult to predict amniotic fluid embolism. If you get signs of rapid heart rate, slow heart rate, or if there are any disturbances in the rhythm of the heart rate you should meet your doctor immediately.

Also, they can have altered mental statuses such as anxiety and confusion.


If there are any signs that the baby is unwell, rarely it can be amniotic fluid embolism. The most important thing here is the care and you have to be aware of amniotic fluid embolism. Rapid respiratory failure is one of the main symptoms of Amniotic fluid embolism. If you have amniotic fluid embolism, it is not only difficult to supply enough oxygen to your blood but it is difficult to remove enough carbon dioxide from the blood with the help of your lungs. It is very hard to breathe.

Also, there is a second stage called the hemorrhagic phase. Most people do not know about this second stage of amniotic embolism. If you are a woman who faced the first stage of AFE and when there’s excessive bleeding may enter this second stage. 

Causes of Amniotic Fluid Embolism

I think that you know the seriousness of amniotic fluid embolism now. Amniotic fluid embolism is very uncommon in childbirth. But you should know the causes of amnio fluid embolism to prevent it. So what are the causes of amniotic fluid embolism? If amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream, that woman can have an amniotic fluid embolism. 

Breakdown in the placental barrier is one of the common ways to be like that. But sometimes the amniotic fluid enters the bloodstream during delivery without causing any problem. Usually, the first stage of amniotic fluid embolism causes cardiac arrest. Also sometimes it causes rapid respiratory failure too. If your heart stops working, then you will lose consciousness. Actually, it is a very dangerous situation.

What are the complications of AFE?

  1. Severe neurological damage and other nervous system problems
  2. Organ failure, brain injury, or brain death
  3. Maternal death and infant death
  4. Memory loss and other mental diseases
  5. Heart damages – short term or permanent damages
  6. Blood-clotting disorders 
  7. Mother’s pituitary gland and hysterectomy can be damaged
  8. Have to stay at the hospital
  9. Some of the infants can have long-term or lifelong complications from amniotic fluid embolism
  10. Nervous system impairments of the infants

AFE activates abnormal clotting in the mother’s lungs and blood vessels. Because of that, the heart can be damaged, and sometimes they can have mental problems too.

How to prevent amniotic fluid embolism?

Amniotic fluid embolism can’t be prevented completely. Also, anyone can not directly predict if and when amniotic fluid embolism will occur. If you have had amniotic fluid embolism you have to get some steps to protect your health. You can get help from your doctor and it is good to talk to a high-risk obstetrician. If you want to have another baby you have to think about your health first. Also, the doctor will tell you about the risk of pregnancy and they will tell you what you should do.

amniotic fluid embolism

There are some factors that might be linked to amniotic fluid embolism. Maternal age is one of the factors. If a woman is older than 35 years at the time of her child’s birth, she can have an amniotic fluid embolism.

Abnormalities and problems in the placenta is another main factor that might be linked to amniotic fluid embolism. Preeclampsia and Polyhydramnios are some other factors. If you already have amniotic fluid embolism, you have to get immediate treatments to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.

amniotic fluid embolism

What are the treatments?

You can manage symptoms with the help of the treatments. The treatments will help to prevent death. The doctors usually use oxygen therapy as a treatment for amniotic fluid embolism. Also, it is very important to get enough oxygen. Sometimes they use medications to manage the mother’s blood pressure. If it is needed to replace the blood lost during the hemorrhagic phase, the health care providers do several types of blood, platelet, and plasma transfusions.