Heavy bleeding after giving birth is the leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide, killing more than 100,000 women each year.

Around 6 percent of women suffer from postpartum haemorrhaging (PPH) - uncontrollable bleeding after giving birth.

In many cases, the lack of access to basic healthcare and medication is the difference between life and death.

But there is new evidence that a low-cost drug could save a third of those lives.

A trial involving 20,000 women in 193 hospitals across 21 countries - mainly in Africa and Asia - found that a widely available drug called tranexamic acid (TXA) could help save lives.

Within three hours of birth, women diagnosed with PPH were either given TXA or a placebo intravenously.

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Those who took the medicine - which stops blood clots from breaking down - were significantly more likely to survive.

"We now have important evidence that the early use of tranexamic acid can save women's lives and ensure more children grow up with a mother," said Haleema Shakur of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which coordinated the trial.

"The need for an operation where you explore why a woman is bleeding can be reduced by a third and there are no side-effects. It's really fantastic news for women all over the world."

TXA was invented in the 1960s by a Japanese husband-and-wife research team, Shosuke and Utako Okamoto.

According to the study published in The Lancet, almost all of the deaths from PPH took place in low and middle-income countries. 

"Mothers [in Pakistan] are faced with poverty and our social norms also don't encourage us to visit hospitals or doctors for regular checkups," Sajida Begum, a resident of Sher Garh Mardan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera News