A new drug formulation on preventing excessive bleeding after childbirth could save thousands of women in low-income to low-middle-income countries.

Currently, hospitals administer oxytocin as the first line of treatment for preventing hemorrhage after giving birth.

Oxytocin, however, is difficult to transport and store since it requires temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius to preserve its potency. This makes the drug inaccessible to many countries and puts many women at risk of dying.

An Alternative To Oxytocin

A research led by the World Health Organization showed that women can be protected from fatal postpartum hemorrhage using the heat-stable carbetocin. Results of a large clinical trial involving 29,645 women from 10 countries showed that carbetocin is proven safe and effective as an alternative drug to oxytocin.

"The development of a drug to prevent postpartum hemorrhage that continues to remain effective in hot and humid conditions is very good news for the millions of women who give birth in parts of the world without access to reliable refrigeration," said Dr. Metin Gülmezoglu, from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at WHO.

Heat-stable carbetocin is not yet available as WHO is yet to consult its Guideline Development Group if it can be used as a treatment for the prevention of post-vaginal birth bleeding.

Participants of the Champion trial came from Uganda, Thailand, United Kingdom, and Egypt, among others. The study is published June 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mortality On Post-Childbirth

Death during or soon after giving birth affects about 700 women annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Despite substantial reductions in maternal mortality, hemorrhage continues to be the largest direct cause of maternal death, accounting for 661,000 deaths worldwide between 2003 and 2009," the authors reported, adding that more than 70 percent of hemorrhagic incidents happen after childbirth.

There are various factors that can lead to maternal death, including the woman's age and the worsening of an underlying condition due to the physiological effects of pregnancy.

UNICEF said in a press release that the huge gap of maternal deaths between developed and developing indicates that proper medical attention and investment could save more lives. The agency added that women continue to die of childbirth due to low social status and limited access to basic healthcare.

The effect of maternal death affects not only the woman herself but also her young. A newborn's survival rate decreases significantly when he or she is deprived of the mother's care.

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