Global plan launched to tackle main cause of death in childbirth

The first roadmap to tackle postpartum haemorrhage, the world’s leading cause of maternal death, has been published by the World Health Organization.

The roadmap aims to help countries address the differences in survival outcomes from PPH, which reflect major inequities in access to essential health services, WHO said.

More than 85% of deaths from PPH occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, with risk factors including anaemia, placental abnormalities, and other pregnancy complications such as infections and pre-eclampsia.

Despite being preventable and treatable, PPH causes about 70,000 deaths every year.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Severe bleeding in childbirth is one of the most common causes of maternal mortality, yet it is highly preventable and treatable.

“This new roadmap charts a path forward to a world in which more women have a safe birth and a healthy future with their families.”

WHO says many risk factors can be managed if there is good-quality antenatal care, such as ultrasound, alongside effective monitoring in the hours after birth.

However, many health facilities lack necessary healthcare workers or resources, including lifesaving commodities such as oxytocin, tranexamic acid or blood for transfusions.

Dr Pascale Allotey, WHO director for sexual and reproductive health and HRP, the UN’s special programme on research development and training in human reproduction, called for a multipronged approach to focus on prevention and response.

“Every woman, no matter where she lives, should have access to timely, high quality maternity care, with trained health workers, essential equipment and shelves stocked with appropriate and effective commodities – this is crucial for treating postpartum bleeding and reducing maternal deaths,” he added.

The Roadmap’s priority actions include: the development of new and broader guidance for PPH covering prevention, detection and treatment; research to deliver innovations and to increase access to proven interventions; the establishment of a new procurement mechanism to improve the supply of high-quality medicines and commodities; advocacy and awareness-building, and, at the country level, training and facility-based improvements.

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