Red bag delivery
A red bag delivery means that the foal is born with a red membrane (the placenta) around it, it is an unpleasant complication that, if you do not act quickly, can cost the foal’s life.
How is a normal delivery?
When there is a normal delivery, the foal is in a white amniotic sac in the womb. There is a red bag, the placenta, around the foal and the white amniotic sac. This placenta is attached to the uterine wall and provides the foal with oxygen, among other things. When the mare is about to give birth, the red bag first bursts and amniotic fluid is released, when the mare starts to push the white amniotic sac with the forelegs and the muzzle of the foal comes out. At that point, the placenta is still attached to the uterine wall and provides the foal with oxygen during delivery. After delivery, the placenta separates from the uterine wall, the afterbirth.
What happens if there is a red bag delivery?
If there is a red bag delivery, the placenta has already detached from the uterine wall and wants to go out at the same time as the white bag and the foal. This is not possible, because there is also amniotic fluid in the red bag, it can be compared to wanting to squeeze an inflated balloon through a tight opening, practically impossible unless you puncture the balloon. The mare has a hard time and keeps lying down and then gets up again and keeps pushing without breaking the water.
If you do not do anything about it at that moment, you will eventually see a red bag come out, when it comes to that, the foal will often already have an oxygen deficiency.
When you recognize it, and you feel the mare up, you will feel a kind of velvety sack, not smooth like the amniotic sack the foal is in. When you open that bag, a lot of amniotic fluid is suddenly released, because the bag is under pressure. After that, it is important to check the position of the foal as there is an increased risk of lying incorrectly with a red bag delivery. If the foal is in the wrong position, it is important to place it properly between contractions to ensure that it is born as soon as possible. If the foal is in the right position, it will be born soon after the red bag has been destroyed.
After birth, you must immediately check the foal’s breathing, as it may be that the foal has developed an oxygen deficiency or received amniotic fluid.
After a red bag delivery, the afterbirth often comes very quickly, because it is already separate from the uterine wall.
Call the vet?
The red bag delivery is often mentioned as a complication in which you cannot wait for the vet to arrive because otherwise the foal can choke. You will have to act yourself, for example with the telephone support of a veterinarian. If you recognize a red bag delivery in time and can act on it, the foal can simply survive the delivery, if action is taken too late, the chances of survival are very small.
It is, of course, wise to have the vet come by after the delivery to check the condition of the foal.