Maternal mortality in Australia: learning from maternal cardiac arrest

Christine Catling-Paull, Nolan McDonnell, Alison Moores, Caroline S E Homer
Nursing & Health Sciences 2011, 13 (1): 10-5
Cardiac arrest in pregnancy is fortunately a rare event that few midwives will see during their career. The increase in maternal age, the Body Mass Index, cesarean sections, multiple pregnancies, and comorbidities over recent years have increased the probability of cardiac arrest. The early warning signs of impending maternal cardiac arrest are either absent or go unrecognized. Maternal mortality reviews highlight the deficiencies that maternity care providers have in managing cardiac arrest in pregnancy.The aim of this article is to address the knowledge deficiencies of health professionals by reviewing the physiological changes in pregnant women that complicate the management of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, using a case scenario. There are key differences in the management of pregnant women, when compared to standard adult resuscitation.The outcome is dependent on the speed of the response and the consideration of a number of crucial pregnancy-specific interventions. Staff members need to be adequately trained in order to deal with maternal cardiac arrest and have access to training packages and in-service education programs. As cardiac arrest in pregnancy is a rare event, emergency drill simulations are an important component of ongoing education.

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