An Argentinian Car Mechanic, Jorge Odón, has devised a way to help birth a stuck baby based on a nifty trick for getting a cork out of a bottle, which you can see in this video:

You really have to watch the video to understand how it would work–otherwise the description sounds like you are putting a bag over the baby’s head, and we all know where that leads.  Here’s a picture of the Odón Device:


Yes, it looks like you are putting the baby in a blender.  Seriously, watch the cork video and it will make much more sense.  Although the video will not explain why a baby in the process of being born is wearing a striped romper.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am not in favor of “devices,”  and many devices concocted for use in birth seem like something out of a horror movie (the one in the link even generated a petition).  What intrigues me about this one is that it has the potential to replace dangerous devices (or surgery) that may be necessary in many cases.  The Odón, if it actually works, could replace the use of forceps and vacuum extractors, both of which carry significant risks, including incontinence, tissue and nerve damage, and pelvic prolapse for the woman and skull fracture, cranial bleeding, and seizures for the baby.  Because of the risks involved in instrumental delivery, and because many U.S. doctors no longer have sufficient practice to do instrumental deliveries safely, cesareans are a more common solution to slow progress or a stuck baby in second stage labor.  As Atul Gawande notes in his excellent New Yorker article ,

Forceps have virtually disappeared from the delivery wards, even though several studies have compared forceps delivery to Cesarean section and found no advantage for Cesarean section. (A few found that mothers actually did better with forceps.)

It seems women and babies may be likely to do even better with the Odón Device, though it has not been widely tested yet, and it has specifically not been tested on women with confirmed obstructed labor (the condition for which the device is designed).  A New York Times article explains the perspective of Dr. Meraldi of the Word Health Organization (WHO):

About 10 percent of the 137 million births worldwide each year have potentially serious complications… About 5.6 million babies are stillborn or die quickly, and about 260,000 women die in childbirth. Obstructed labor, which can occur when a baby’s head is too large or an exhausted mother’s contractions stop, is a major factor.  In wealthy countries, fetal distress results in a rush to the operating room. In poor, rural clinics…if the baby doesn’t come out, the woman is on her own.  Although more testing is planned on the Odón Device, doctors said it appeared to be safe for midwives with minimal training to use.

The device is estimated to cost about $50 to make.

Doctors have readily adapted–and refused to give up–high-tech, costly processes that do not work or cause unnecessary harm, such as fetal monitoring, prophylactic cesarean for twin births, and elective induction.  At the same time, doctors have  actively resisted low or non-technical processes that are both helpful and low-cost or free, such as freedom of movement in labor, doulas, and water for pain relief.

It remains to be seen

  1. if the new device is safe and effective
  2. and if it is, whether U.S. physicians will be willing to give up lucrative surgeries for a $50 device that can be used by a layperson and is based on a parlor trick
  3. or if it will be enthusiastically embraced and used on all birthing women whether they need it or not.

Let’s hope that women (and their babies) are ultimately the ones who benefit.