Maternal mortality refers to the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes. Eradicating this or reducing to the bare minimum has ranked high in the health focus of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
The leading cause of maternal mortality is excessive post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) or bleeding and it affects 14 million women a year. Records show that globally about 70,000 women lose their lives as a result annually and children who lose their mothers are also much less likely to survive infancy. This has been a huge challenge in the fight to reduce the maternal mortality rate (MMR).
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently announced a breakthrough cure for post-partum bleeding. This breakthrough cure, Carbetocin; is a new heat-stable drug with the ability to stop serious bleeding, without the need for refrigerating. This is according to a new clinical WHO led trial that worked with 30,000 women from 10 different countries, including Uganda, Thailand and Egypt. This trial employed the double blinding strategy where both drugs were kept in cold storage so neither doctors or patients new which treatment was being given.
Heat-stable carbetocin maintains effectiveness for at least three years at 30°C and six months at 40°C which is conducive enough to the peculiar conditions found in low and mid-income countries.
Oxytocin has been the drug of choice after birth which helps boost contractions that cause the placenta ejection and close off blood vessels which can cause excessive bleeding.
However, using Oxytocin effectively has been very challenging due to its high storage requirement. Its effectiveness is assured only when it is stored below 8°C . Implication of this is that it becomes quite unsuitable in many low and middle income countries like Nigeria that account for about 99 per cent of the global PPH deaths.
This break through is great news and a huge step in reducing MMR globally.