Lea Ann Stephens, RN, OK State Liaison Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation.

by Van Mitchell – staff writer

Amniotic fluid Embolism Awareness Day will be held Wednesday March 27 at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City with Gov. Kevin Stitt signing a proclamation recognizing the day.
Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE) is a rare condition that can be where amniotic fluid leaks into the maternal circulation from the baby and it causes a cardiovascular collapse, said Lea Ann Stephens, RN, OK State Liaison Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation.
“It is not uncommon to have amniotic fluid into your bloodstream during the delivery process. For some moms though it can turn into an emergency response. It can be kind of described similar to the spectrum of a bee sting. Some who get stung don’t experience any problems and others may have an anaphylactic response.” Stephens said.
The Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 2008, quickly united the voices of families, survivors, medical professionals and researchers to call for greater awareness and resources to reduce the threat of amniotic fluid embolism (AFE).
According to the AFE Foundation website, AFE’s exact cause is unknown. AFE is very rare. It affects 1 in every 40,000 deliveries in the United States and 1 in every 53,800 deliveries in Europe.
The symptoms of AFE are similar to other complications during childbirth, like uterine rupture, placental abruption and eclampsia. This makes it more difficult to diagnose AFE as the cause of the complication.
The placenta breaking down during labor or delivery may trigger an immune response in some people, leading to AFE. It’s not clear why this happens in some people and not others.
Stephens, a nurse for over 36 years, said AFE took the life of her daughter Jacie Stephens Cochran after giving birth to her son Jaxon in July 2020.
“My daughter responded with a total collapse of her cardiovascular system soon after her water broke,” she said. “The mortality rate is high for AFEs. This is why it’s so important to get the information out so that people are aware about symptoms.”
Jacie’s mother has taken on the role of the Oklahoma State Liaison for the Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation since losing her daughter.
She contacts all of the hospitals with labor and delivery services to help facilitate the educational programs for clinicians provided from the AFE Foundation. She also has a presentation of Jacie’s story along with AFE facts and resources.
“These education programs are free of charge,” she said.
Stephens said since 2020, Oklahoma has had three known cases of AFE, all three resulted in the mother dying, but fortunately their babies survived.
“The baby mortality rate is high as well” she said. “They can also have long-lasting effects from complications at birth just as the mothers that survive an AFE may have. The fast response of physicians caring for Jacie led her son to live a very healthy life and we are so thankful a little piece of Jacie will live on.” This is not the same scenario for many.”
Stephens said the proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. will be attended by Jacie’s parents, Jacie’s son and husband, and Jacie’s sister.
Stephens said Jacie was an athlete at Emporia State University in Kansas, and had a big personality and a gusto for life.
“That’s her personality. She always did everything big,” she said. “We miss her tremendously.”
Stephens said as a mother and as a nurse, she felt compelled to raise awareness about AFE with healthcare workers and the general public.
“My role is to spread awareness, tell Jacie’s story, and encourage clinician education so they may be better prepared,” she said.
Stephens said Jacie was an organ donor, which in turn has helped others, as well as help with AFE research.
“It’s (AFE) been something that has not been able to be figured out yet,” she said. “A lot of her specimens went to a biorepository to be analyzed. They’re (researchers) doing what they can, and the AFE Foundation gathers data and facilitates specimen collection to help with research. They provide so much support, research and education. I’m very thankful for the AFE Foundation.”
If you would like to contact Stephens for your hospital to receive information, contact her at [email protected].
Stephens said in recognition of AFE Awareness Day if you would like to donate in honor of Jacie and the mothers that lost their lives to an AFE you may contact the AFE Foundation at https://amnioticfluidembolism.org/.

To follow Jacie’s legacy there is a Facebook page in her honor at LiveJacieBig.