Low-tech garment might prevent maternal death in childbirth
(27 February 06)
>from the University of California at San Francisco
A simple, low-tech garment has the potential to prevent a major cause of death among women who give birth in many Third World countries, according to a new study by maternal health researchers.
Study findings show the use of a neoprene suit can save the lives of women suffering from obstetrical haemorrhaging due to childbirth. Haemorrhaging accounts for about 30 per cent of the more than 500 000 maternal deaths worldwide each year due to childbirth, nearly all in poor countries, according to the researchers.
Results from a pilot study on the use of the suit, conducted at selected sites in Egypt, will be published in the April issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Suellen Miller, who is an international maternal health expert and director of the Safe Motherhood Programs of the UCSF Women's Global Health Imperative, directed the pilot study, which evaluated use of a non-pneumatic anti-shock garment, or NASG.
The NASG is a simple, lightweight reusable neoprene suit – similar to the bottom half of a wetsuit. It is made up of five segments that close tightly with Velcro. Crucial compression is achieved by combining the three-way stretch of the neoprene and the tight Velcro closures.
When in shock, the brain, heart and lungs are deprived of oxygen because blood accumulates in the lower abdomen and legs. The compression from the NASG shunts blood from the lower extremities and abdominal area to the essential core organs: heart, lungs and brain. Within minutes of application, a haemorrhaging woman can regain consciousness and vital signs will normalize, according to Miller.
In the pilot study, 158 obstetrical haemorrhage patients underwent standard haemorrhage treatment and 206 patients with obstetrical haemorrhaging underwent standard treatment plus the NASG. Study results showed a 50% decrease in blood loss among women treated with the NASG, which is statistically significant, according to Miller. Findings showed a 69% decrease in death and severe illness.
"These results are dramatic, particularly given that the NASG can be easily applied by anyone. No medical training is necessary," said Miller. "Even though there have been variations of this suit used in the past, we see this as being somewhat revolutionary," said Miller. "We have demonstrated its efficacy in a limited way with the Egypt pilot study and will continue now with larger, more rigorous studies."