Can You Use an AED on a Pregnant Woman?



In the world of emergency medical response, some questions consistently arise. An example of this is, “Can you use an AED on a pregnant woman?” Given the potential risks associated with maternal cardiac arrest and the well-being of the unborn child, it is important to fully understand the answer to this question.

Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Pregnant Women

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a dire medical situation where the heart suddenly stops beating. SCA claims over 475,000 American lives every year. Pregnant women are not exempt. Factors like high blood pressure and high-risk pregnancy can make expecting mothers more susceptible to experiencing SCA.

The Concern Surrounding Maternal Cardiac Arrest

Maternal cardiac arrest, although rare, is a grave concern, especially when considering life-saving interventions. One cause of sudden cardiac distress in pregnant women is amniotic fluid embolism. This condition, while uncommon, can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

AED and CPR: Vital Tools in Life-saving Procedures

The Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a groundbreaking tool in combating SCA. Yet, many harbor concerns about its use on pregnant women, mainly due to the safety of the unborn child. People also hesitate to perform CPR on a pregnant woman, given the unique anatomical challenges and the potential risks to both the mother and baby.

AED on Pregnant Women: What Does The American Heart Say?

The American Heart Association, a leading voice in cardiovascular care and research, has given clear guidance on this issue. According to their guidelines, not only is it safe to use an AED on an expecting mother, but it’s also crucial. Delaying or refraining from administering life-saving measures like CPR or AED use can drastically reduce the survival chances of both the mother and the unborn child.

Administering CPR on a Pregnant Woman: Best Practices

Given the unique challenges, how should one approach performing CPR on a pregnant woman? Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Call 911 Immediately: Always initiate by calling for professional medical help. Inform the dispatcher about the patient’s pregnancy to ensure the best-suited emergency medical response.
  2. Start CPR: Begin with chest compressions. Position your hands at the center of the chest and apply forceful, rhythmic compressions. The goal is 100-120 compressions per minute.
  3. Using the AED: If you have an AED at hand, don’t hesitate to use it. Follow the device’s prompts. The procedure remains the same as for non-pregnant individuals.
  4. Improving Blood Flow: If the expecting mother regains consciousness, gently lay her on her left side to improve blood flow to the heart. This position not only enhances circulation for the mother but also benefits the unborn child by boosting the flow of oxygen-rich blood.

Factors to Keep in Mind

  • High Blood Pressure: This condition, prevalent in some pregnancies, can increase the risk of SCA. Being aware of this can help bystanders make swift decisions about starting CPR.
  • Amniotic Fluid Embolism: As mentioned earlier, this rare condition can lead to maternal cardiac arrest. Immediate CPR and medical intervention are paramount in such situations.
  • High-Risk Pregnancy: Women with a high-risk pregnancy, due to factors like age, multiple births, or pre-existing health conditions, might require additional care. While the CPR process remains standard, it’s essential to communicate any known complications or conditions when you call 911.

Final Thoughts

When faced with a situation where a pregnant woman is in distress, it’s crucial to act swiftly and confidently. Understand that by starting CPR and using an AED, you’re taking the most significant step in offering a fighting chance to not just one, but two lives.

Furthermore, regular training and updates in CPR techniques, especially in administering CPR on pregnant women, can equip individuals with the confidence and knowledge required during emergencies.

Life-saving techniques, whether it’s the use of an Automated External Defibrillator or performing chest compressions, are integral in the face of SCA. For pregnant women, these actions become even more crucial, considering the dual lives at stake.

In conclusion, while the hope is always that we never find ourselves in a situation demanding such intervention, being prepared is half the battle won. So, can you use an AED on a pregnant woman? YES. When paired with the right CPR technique, it can be the beacon of hope that an expecting mother and her unborn child desperately need.


Blog By Blaire Czarniecki

Written by Blaire Czarniecki
Customer Service Director

Fact checked by Phillip Woods, BA, NREMT-P, FP-C

Blaire attended the University of Tennessee where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology- Child and Family Studies. She has been in the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) industry for over eight years and is the Director of Customer Service for Coro Medical. Blaire is also an American Red Cross-certified CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor, highly trained by each manufacturer on their specific AEDs, and knowledgeable regarding ALL State AED regulations and legislation.

Last updated August 17, 2023