Argentinean Jorge Odón is a car mechanic by trade, and a tinkerer by nature. Recently, Odón watched a video about an easy method for removing a cork stuck in a wine bottle. And in the middle of the night it dawned on him that the same "trick" could be used during childbirth to help a baby that is stuck in the birth canal.

Obstructed labor — when the baby's head gets stuck in the birth canal — is a major complication of childbirth. Doctors may use forceps or suction cups to try to pull the baby out. These procedures can lead to a number of complications on their own, and still are not guaranteed to succeed. In wealthier countries, the mother and baby may be whisked off to the operating room for an emergency C-section. In poor countries, or communities without access to advanced health care, this type of surgery is not an option.  

Odón's children were fortunately born without complications, but his aunt suffered nerve damage during childbirth, so Odón was familiar with the potential complications. In an interview with the New York Times, Odón explained that after seeing the wine bottle trick, it dawned on him that this could be used during childbirth.

With the help of his wife, he constructed a prototype using his daughter's baby doll, a glass jar and a fabric bag.

In time, and with several revisions of his design, Odón's idea — the Odón Device — won the endorsement of the World Health Organization (WHO), big-time donors, and a medical technology company that wants to develop it for production.

Here's how it works:

Using the Odón Device, a lubricated plastic sleeve is slipped around the baby's head and inflated until it forms a grip. Doctors then pull on the bag until the baby emerges. According to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of WHO, the Odón Device has the potential to save babies in poor countries, and reduce the number of emergency cesareans in rich ones.

"The Odón Device, developed by WHO and now undergoing clinical trials, offers a low-cost simplified way to deliver babies, and protect mothers, when labour is prolonged. It promises to transfer life-saving capacity to rural health posts, which almost never have the facilities and staff to perform a C-section. If approved, the Odón Device will be the first simple new tool for assisted delivery since forceps and vacuum extractors were introduced centuries ago," Chan said in a speech to the 65th World Health Assembly.

Related posts on MNN:

Car mechanic invents new device to aid in childbirth
Health experts say the Odón Device has the potential to save lives around the world.