Cardiac Arrest During Childbirth More Common Than Thought: Study

Causes can include severe high blood pressure, excessive bleeding, blood infection, researchers report

FRIDAY, March 21, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Cardiac arrest in women during childbirth is rare, but it may be twice as common as previously believed, a new study suggests.

Factors that can cause a woman's heart to stop beating during childbirth include a severe form of high blood pressure called preeclampsia, excessive bleeding, heart failure or heart attack, blood infection and the entry of amniotic fluid into the mother's bloodstream (amniotic fluid embolism).

Researchers analyzed data from more than 56 million births in the United States, and found that more than one in 12,000 women had a cardiac arrest while they were in hospital for childbirth.

Those who had cardiac arrests were more likely to be older, black or to be covered by Medicaid, according to the study in the April issue of the journal Anesthesiology.

The main causes of cardiac arrest were bleeding (nearly 45 percent), heart failure (13 percent), amniotic fluid embolism (13 percent) and blood infection (11 percent), the investigators found.

The researchers also reported that CPR was often successful in cases of cardiac arrest during childbirth, and that the survival rate rose from 52 percent in 1998 to 60 percent in 2011.

"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," study author Dr. Jill Mhyre, an associate professor of anesthesiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said in a journal news release.

"Fortunately, physician anesthesiologists are experts in leading resuscitation teams for maternal cardiac arrest and other emergencies that happen on the labor floor," she added.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about cardiac arrest.

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