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How an Auto Mechanic’s Invention Could Aid Childbirth

The Odón Device is far gentler than forceps or suction cups, other common tools doctors and midwives use to assist with the birthing process.

ByTim De ChantNOVA NextNOVA Next
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The Odón Device could aid childbirths in countries around the world.

Jorge Odón, an auto mechanic in Argentina, had become obsessed with a parlor trick he had seen on YouTube. In it, someone retrieves a cork that had been pushed into a wine bottle with nothing more than a plastic grocery bag. His problem-solving mind immediately latched on to the clever stunt, and, in a fit of sleeplessness, he turned the idea over and over in his head. By 4 AM he arrived at something entirely unexpected. With a few modifications, the parlor trick could be turned into a device that could change childbirth for women around the world.

Odón, who has numerous patents for car parts, began refining the idea. After showing it to a few obstetricians in Argentina, he met with a doctor from the World Health Organization, who loved the invention.

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Donald G. McNeil, Jr., reporting for the New York Times:

With the Odón Device, an attendant slips a plastic bag inside a lubricated plastic sleeve around the head, inflates it to grip the head and pulls the bag until the baby emerges.

Doctors say it has enormous potential to save babies in poor countries, and perhaps to reduce cesarean section births in rich ones.

“This is very exciting,” said Dr. Mario Merialdi, the W.H.O.’s chief coordinator for improving maternal and perinatal health and an early champion of the Odón Device. “This critical moment of life is one in which there’s been very little advancement for years.”

The Odón Device is far gentler than forceps or suction cups, other common tools doctors and midwives use to assist with the birthing process. It’s straightforward enough that, with a bit of training, midwives could use it, expanding the situations in which the device could be used.

There’s still plenty of testing that remains to be done before the Odón Device is widely available, but doctors who have seen the device in action say it has great promise.

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