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Tranexamic acid can reduce maternal deaths 'by a third'

Trial of 20,000 women shows deaths from heavy bleeding after giving birth reduced by 30 percent with tranexamic acid.

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

Around six percent of women suffer from postpartum hemorrhaging (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 bloodclots 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 said.


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