Maternal mortality rates are falling in every industrialised nation – except for the United States.
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.
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.