Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) can happen to anyone, regardless of their physical health, age, ethnicity or gender. When an SCA strikes, it is vital that bystanders start CPR immediately. However CPR only buys time while retrieving an Automated External Defibrillator (AED), as only a shock from an AED will restart their heart. It is important to remember that an AED cannot injure the patient, as it will only deliver a shock once it has detected a deadly heart rhythm. Therefore, applying an AED will not injure the patient but it is the only action that can save their life, or in the case of a pregnant patient, two lives Here’s some insight into using an AED on a pregnant patient.
Treat a Pregnant Victim Like Any Other
A shock to the heart from an AED is the only way to treat a person with SCA, so you should treat a pregnant woman exactly the same as you would any other SCA victim. Quick use of an AED gives the patient the best chances of survival; studies have shown survival rates as high as 55% when bystanders use an AED. So remember, your actions can save two lives, the life of a pregnant woman and her unborn child, all you have to do is ‘Call, Push, Shock’, call the ambulance, start CPR and get the AED
AEDs Are Safe for Mother and Foetus
Naturally, many people fear hurting an unborn child by using an AED or even performing bystander CPR (chest compressions) on the mother. Fortunately, research by the American Heart Association and other leading bodies have found that it is completely safe to use an AED and perform CPR on pregnant women.
It is especially important to do so because the foetus and the mother are unlikely to survive without this lifesaving treatment. Because SCA stops blood flow immediately, the brain and organ systems are deprived of oxygen. Tissue starts dying off after just 3 minutes and the survival rate of the patient decreases by 10% every minute. This affects the foetus as well as the mother, and both will die without this lifesaving treatment.
Precautions You Should Take When Treating a Pregnant Woman
There are some important precautions you should take when treating a pregnant SCA patient:
- Inform emergency services that the patient is pregnant. This will help them prepare properly with additional responders, if needed, as well as helping to choose the correct hospital to go to if an emergency delivery is required.
- When performing CPR, perform the chest compressions exactly as if you were preforming them on anyone else. Place your interlocked hands, palms down, on the centre of her chest. Pump downwards firmly, compressing the chest by about 5cm, and release. Keep a rhythm of 100-120 compressions per minute. You may provide rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth) if you are confident to do so.
- If the patient revives, place her in the recovery position on her left side to improve blood circulation. Keep the lower (left) leg straight and bend the upper (right) leg out and forward at about a 90-degree angle. Place the right hand to support her head, and let the left arm lie on the ground at a 90-degree angle.
While no one ever wants to be in this emergency situation, it is important to know that it is safe and advisable to apply an AED and perform CPR on a pregnant woman. It is not an easy situation to be in, but having the confidence to act rapidly is key to saving two lives.
Why Are Pregnant Women at Risk of SCA?
While SCA can strike anyone, the risks are a bit higher for pregnant women. This is because of several reasons, including:
- An increase in women with chronic health conditions falling pregnant.
- An increase in women falling pregnant at a later age, where you are more likely to have complications or additional health issues to manage.
- Existing pregnancy complications that increase risk of SCA are fairly common, including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, and so forth.
Saving Lives Means Having Rapid Access to an Automated External Defibrillator
Saving the life of a pregnant woman and her baby in the event of a SCA relies on having an AED close by, especially in public spaces, shopping centres, workplaces, gyms, hotels and schools. At DefibsPlus, we provide affordable, easy-to-use AEDs from leading brands that can be used safely on pregnant women even if you have no First Aid or medical training.
Contact us today for more information on AEDs, defibrillator training and our HeartSmart educational program.