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:

  • Blood tests, including those that evaluate clotting, heart enzymes, electrolytes and blood type, as well as a complete blood count (CBC)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to evaluate your heart's rhythm
  • Pulse oximetry to check the amount of oxygen in your blood
  • Chest X-ray to look for fluid around your heart
  • Echocardiography to evaluate your heart's function


Amniotic fluid embolism requires rapid treatment to address low blood oxygen and low blood pressure.

Emergency treatments might include:

  • Catheter placement. Your health care team places a thin, hollow tube into one of your arteries (arterial catheter) to monitor your blood pressure. You'll also have another tube placed into a vein in your chest (central venous catheter), which can be used to give fluids, medications or transfusions, as well as draw blood.
  • Oxygen. You might need to have a breathing tube inserted into your airway to help you breathe.
  • Medications. Your doctor might give you medications to improve and support your heart function. Other medications might be used to decrease the pressure caused by fluid going into your heart and lungs.
  • Transfusions. If you have uncontrollable bleeding, you'll need transfusions of blood, blood products and replacement fluids.

If you have amniotic fluid embolism before delivering your baby, your doctor will treat you with the goal of safely delivering your baby as soon as possible. An emergency C-section might be needed.

Coping and support

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.

Sept. 11, 2015
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