New delivery method conceptualized by auto mechanic may help ease birthing process

Yes, it's true - an auto mechanic from Argentina is dabbling in the field of gynecology and obstetrics, and both the World Health Organization and United States Agency for International Development are thanking him for his efforts.

Jorge Odón, 59, had no background in pregnancy or the delivering of babies, but a device that he engineered in his kitchen may save millions of newborn babies and their mothers in underdeveloped countries that have limited access to high-quality, modern health care. The device, which is still in its testing phases, is a simple, effective and inexpensive way to naturally facilitate a pregnancy in which the baby becomes stuck in the birthing canal.

The Odón device is a simple construction that Odón himself admits was inspired by a bottle of wine. While extracting a cork that had fallen into the wine, Odón had the idea that his technique might be modified to help women during complicated deliveries. As a prototype, the mechanic used a glass jar in place of a womb and his daughter's doll in place of a fetus. He then used a fabric bag and sleeve, sewn by his wife, to extract the doll from the jar.

Since that initial model, the life-saving Odón device has been modified to a plastic bag within a plastic sleeve that is lubricated and then slipped over the baby's head while still in the birth canal. The attendant would then inflate the bag to form a grip around the baby's head, then pull the bag in order to pull the infant from the birth canal. Once approved, the device may save many women from undergoing emergency C-sections, which often result in the death of the mother, child or both, in such countries.

"This is very exciting," said Mario Merialdi, M.P.H., M.D., the WHO's chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health. Merialdi was an early supporter of the Odón device. "This critical moment of life is one in which there's been very little advancement for years."

What kind of difference could the Odón device make?
Odón's device has the potential to save the lives of millions in places where quality health care access is limited. Of the 137 million births that occur each year, approximately 10 percent have serious complications that, in countries without top-notch health care, are potentially fatal, Merialdi told The New York Times. There are about 5.6 million babies who die before or shortly after birth, and about 260,000 women die in childbirth annually, according to the WHO. Obstructed labors, such as the type that may be solved by the Odón device, play a large role. Even so, manufacturers are cautioning the public not to get too excited just yet.

"My first reaction, as soon as I saw it, was positive," Gary Cohen told the news source. Cohen is the executive vice president for global health at Becton, Dickinson and Company, the New Jersey-based company  that will be manufacturing the device. "Many inventions get to the prototype stage, but that's maybe 15 percent of what needs to be done … There's finalizing the design for manufacture, quality control, the regulatory work and clinical studies."

At this point, the Odón device has only been tested on 30 Argentine women who were experiencing normal births. Soon, however, the device will be tested on 100 more women in a normal-birth scenario before testing 170 women in obstructed-birth scenarios. Though the process is lengthy, the medical community is excited about the advancement they expect this simple device to provide.

What do you think about the Odón device and its strange origins? Let us know in the comments section!