Sudden cardiac arrest doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of their gender, how old they are, or how well they take care of their health. It can also affect women during their pregnancies. Recent studies have found that 1 in 30,000 pregnant women experience sudden cardiac arrest, which can lead to emergency delivery.
Giving CPR to a pregnant woman should be a priority. However, the standard resuscitation technique must be changed and adjusted so as not to hurt the mother and the unborn baby.
In this article, we’ll go over the specific steps and adjustments necessary to administer CPR to a pregnant woman effectively. Knowing and being prepared to take action in such situations could provide the care a pregnant woman and her baby need to live. So, let’s get into the details about how to perform CPR on a pregnant woman.
Why Pregnant Women Need Special CPR Techniques
Pregnancy changes a woman’s body in ways that can make it harder to perform CPR if it’s ever needed. For example, the uterus expands and puts additional pressure on the diaphragm, which may compromise breathing. That can make it harder for the rescuer to get air into the lungs during resuscitation. The increased blood volume and cardiac output required to support the mother and baby mean that standard chest compressions may not be as effective.
Normally, you’d put the victim on their back to give them CPR, but doing so with pregnant women can compress the vena cava – the major vein returning blood to the heart. This can reduce the blood flow and potentially lead to decreased oxygen levels for her and the child.
What you need to do is tilt her slightly to the left. This is known as the left lateral tilt and helps alleviate the pressure on the blood vessels, ensuring that the blood keeps circulating freely.
During pregnancy, both mom and baby need more oxygen, so it’s important to restore circulation and breathing as quickly as possible. That’s why you must get the chest compressions right – deep enough to be effective but gentle enough not to hurt the baby. As for rescue breaths, you must be careful yet efficient, providing the much-needed air without causing additional stress.
Before You Begin CPR: Precautions and Assessments
Before you initiate CPR on a pregnant woman, your first step is to guarantee her safety. You must quickly assess the surroundings for potential risks that could further harm her or the baby.
- Make sure she’s not putting too much weight on her stomach and potentially hurting the baby.
- Check her responsiveness by gently tapping her shoulder and asking if she’s okay.
- Check her breathing. Is she breathing normally, or is there no breath at all?
If the woman is unresponsive and not breathing or only gasping, you must call for emergency medical services immediately. Time is pretty important, so don’t think twice. If other bystanders are nearby, tell them to make the call while you prepare to start CPR.
The Steps of Performing CPR on a Pregnant Woman
If you’re ever in a situation where you need to perform CPR on a pregnant woman, you need to be aware that the standard resuscitation approach will not be suitable. The physiological changes that a woman goes through during pregnancy affect the way CPR is performed on her.
The increased size of the abdomen, the presence of the fetus, and the risk of supine hypotensive syndrome are all factors that you have to keep in mind. Your actions could be a lifeline for both the mother and the unborn child, so you must follow these steps carefully.
Chest Compressions: Technique and Modification
When starting to do chest compression on a pregnant woman, you have to place your hands slightly higher on the sternum than on a non-pregnant person. Place the heel of your hand on the center of the chest, right between the breasts, and interlock your fingers. Keep your arms straight and your shoulders directly over your hands to ensure you’re pushing hard enough.
When doing CPR on a pregnant woman, the depth of the chest compressions should still be at least 2 inches but not more than 2.4 inches. The rate should remain at 100 to 120 compressions per minute. However, because of the enlarged abdomen, you’ll need to tilt the woman’s body to the left slightly to alleviate pressure on the inferior vena cava. You can do this by placing a rolled-up towel or a small pillow under her right side, which can help improve blood flow.
Airway Management and Rescue Breaths
Pregnancy can increase the risk of airway obstruction. To avoid this happening, you must adapt the head-tilt-chin-lift maneuver.
- Tilt the head as much as possible to ensure the airway is open.
- Be careful not to extend the neck too much.
- Use your thumb and forefinger to pinch the soft part of her nose closed.
- Place your mouth over theirs and form a tight seal.
- Give two steady breaths, each lasting no more than 1 second.
- Watch her chest rise with each breath.
Uninterrupted CPR and Switching of Roles
The longer the pause between compressions, the more it can impact the effectiveness of the CPR. If there’s another rescuer available, you should switch roles every two minutes, especially if you feel fatigued. This rotation can help maintain the quality of compressions and prevent rescuer fatigue.
Use of an Automated External Defibrillator
If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available, don’t hesitate to use it because it can significantly increase the victim’s chances of survival.
When placing the AED pads on a pregnant woman, one pad should be placed in the center of the chest, just like for non-pregnant individuals. The other should be placed on her left side, below the armpit, a bit to the side of the left breast. This positioning helps avoid the larger abdomen and ensures the electric current passes through the heart effectively.
Aftercare Following CPR
Once you’ve performed CPR on a pregnant woman and breathing and circulation seem to have returned, you have to think about aftercare as well. Keep her on her left side if possible to improve blood flow to the heart. You’ll want to monitor her closely and watch for any changes in her breathing and pulse.
Keep her calm and still, as any unnecessary movement could worsen any potential injuries or cause her additional stress. Even if she seems stable, there could still be some internal injuries or complications that aren’t obvious to the naked eye.
Statistics show that 68.6% of women who experienced cardiac arrest survive, which is why it’s critical to get EMS on the scene as quickly as possible. While waiting for emergency services, try gathering any available medical history and relay this information to the responders upon their arrival.
Preparing for Possible Complications
If you’ve decided to jump into action and perform CPR on a pregnant woman in need, then you must be prepared for any possible complications as well. She could experience contractions, bleeding, or even go into labor, so make sure you stay with her and support her until help arrives. So, keep your phone handy and pre-dial the number of emergency services in case the situation escalates.
While cardiac arrest in pregnant women is rare, it’s still a possibility and demands immediate and knowledgeable action. Knowing how to perform CPR on a pregnant woman can save not one but potentially two lives. Being prepared and knowing what to do in case of a medical emergency can make all the difference to someone’s life.
By getting CPR certified in Jacksonville, you’re equipping yourself with the proper CPR techniques to potentially save lives. Should you ever find yourself in a situation where a pregnant woman needs immediate medical attention, you’ll be ready to act swiftly and effectively.