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Mechanic's innovation may become next vaginal delivery aid

A wine bottle trick and a serendipitous dream reportedly are what's behind a cheap medical device that may be a game changer for reducing delivery complications in women and their newborns across the globe.

The product is called the "Odon device," and the New York Times reports it's the brainchild of a 59-year-old Argentine mechanic named Jorge Odon. He claims he had the idea come to him in a dream after winning a bet with his buddies to remove a cork stuck in a glass bottle without breaking it.

An inserter with a small plastic bell is placed in the vagina, with the bell resting on the baby's head. When the doctor activates the device, two plastic sleeves shoot down from inside the inserter. The sleeves go over the bell and over the newborn's head, effectively separating it from the birth canal. A small amount of air is then pumped into a chamber, which causes the sleeves to inflate and firmly grasp the baby's entire head.

The inserter portion and bell is then removed, leaving one end of the plastic sleeves securely holding the baby's head and the other outside the vagina. A doctor can pull the baby out of the birth canal by grabbing handles attached to the sleeves, aided by the sliding surfaces of the lubricated vagina and smooth plastic.

This screengrab from the Odon device's website shows how the product may aid delivery of a baby.
   Odon reportedly got the idea from a YouTube video, which showed a person dislodging a cork from a wine bottle by rolling up a plastic bag, placing it in the bottle and inflating it, before pulling out the bag and cork in one swoop.

The night Odon won the bet, he said had a dream that this concept could work on babies stuck in a birth canal, a condition which led to nerve damage in his aunt.

He woke up his wife who "said I was crazy and went back to sleep," he told the Times.

He then turned his dream into a prototype using a glass jar, his daughter's toy doll and a fabric bag sewn by his wife. Eventually, he pitched the product to a hospital chief in Buenos Aires who directed him to Dr. Mario Merialdi, a maternal and perinatial health researcher at the World Health Organization.

The health official was wowed by the concept, and commissioned preliminary testing in 2008 at Des Moine University in Iowa.

"This critical moment of life is one in which there's been very little advancement for years," Merialdi told the paper.

The device can come in handy when vaginal delivery is stalled. Sometimes in delivery, a baby will not be pushed out despite the cervix being fully dilated and the baby having descended head first into the birth canal, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In that case, doctors might turn to tools like forceps or a vacuum to extract the baby, or suggest the mother undergo a C-section.

These options are typically recommended for women who have pushed for two to three hours but have not made any progress. Forceps and vacuum extraction are also sometimes performed if the doctor has concerns about the baby's heartbeat during labor or the mom has a heart condition, and doctors don't want her to push for too long, Mayo added.

While not delivering the baby fast enough could risk the lives of both the child and the mother due to hemorrhaging, infection, suffocation for the baby and other trauma, these assisted delivery techniques could pose health risks as well.

Moms may experience pain, vaginal tearing, urinary or fecal incontinence, anemia caused by blood loss and other injuries. Babies may develop scalp wounds, facial injuries and fractures and other damage.

That's where the Odon device may serve as an alternative.

The World Health Organization says the device may be safer and easier to apply than a forceps or vacuum extractor because it reduces contact between the baby's head and birth canal, which in turn may reduce infection risk.

The device won the "Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development" award. The WHO adds it has potential for wide application in lower-income areas with limited resources or access to surgical equipment.

It has already been tested at health clinics in Argentina and rural South Africa, according to the device's website. More testing is in the works in other countries and will be overseen by the WHO, the Times adds.

The device also found a manufacturer in medical supply-maker Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD) based Franklin Lakes, N.J., according to the report. No word yet on what it will sell for, but it will cost less than $50 to make.

The Odon device website has more information on how the product works.

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