Intervention Reduces Severe Postpartum Hemorrhage by 60%

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is the leading cause of maternal deaths worldwide, particularly in the least developed and developing countries. Of the 14 million female patients affected each year, approximately 70,000 cases result in death. In Brazil, PPH is the second leading cause of maternal death, surpassed only by high blood pressure. However, according to a new study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, a simple and affordable strategy may reduce the occurrence of severe cases during vaginal delivery.

Using the E-MOTIVE intervention reduced severe cases of PPH by 60%. These cases are defined as entailing blood loss ≥1000 mL in the 24 hours following delivery. This intervention also substantially reduced the need for blood transfusions, which are often costly and difficult to obtain.

In this trial, 80 secondary-level hospitals in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Tanzania, in which 210,132 patients underwent vaginal delivery, were randomly assigned to the intervention group or the usual-care group. Researchers identified that, among hospitals and patients with data, a primary outcome event occurred in 1.6% of the patients in the intervention group, compared with 4.3% of those in the usual-care group. In addition, PPH was detected in 93.1% of the patients in the intervention group and in 51.1% of those in the usual-care group. The treatment bundle was used in 91.2% and 19.4%, respectively.

The E-MOTIVE intervention, which is intended for use by healthcare professionals, consists of three elements:

  1. A strategy for early detection of PPH, which allows triggering of the “first response” treatment bundle

  2. A first response bundle called MOTIVE, which is based on WHO guidelines and consists of uterine massage, oxytocic drugs, tranexamic acid, IV fluids, and examination of the genital tract and escalation

  3. An implementation strategy that focuses on simulation-based training with peer-assisted learning, local E-MOTIVE champions, feedback of actionable data to providers, calibrated drape with trigger line, and MOTIVE emergency trolley or carry case

The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and was presented at a WHO press conference.

During the press conference, study author Arri Coomarasamy, MD, said, “This new approach to treating postpartum hemorrhage could radically improve women’s chances of surviving childbirth globally, helping them get the treatment they need when they need it.”

Coomarasamy, who is also co-director of the WHO Collaborating Centre on Global Women’s Health at the University of Birmingham, added, “Time is of the essence when responding to postpartum bleeding, so interventions that eliminate delays in diagnosis or treatment should be game-changers for maternal health.”

In Brazil, maternal mortality is still one of the most significant challenges in public health. In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the difficulties and weaknesses in the healthcare system for pregnant women and new mothers.

The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births from any cause related to or aggravated by pregnancy or its management (excluding accidental or incidental causes) during pregnancy and childbirth or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy. In 2021, the MMR was 113. This figure was almost double the 55.3 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births reported in 2019, which was before the pandemic. Preliminary data from the Brazilian Ministry of Health collected by the Brazilian Obstetric Observatory (OOBr) indicate that the MMR in 2022 decreased to 50.6 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. However, these numbers could increase, because the maternal mortality committees are still reviewing cases.

In an interview with Medscape Portuguese Edition, Rossana Pulcineli Vieira Francisco, MD, PhD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine and obstetrics coordinator of the OOBr, affirmed that although these numbers have dropped, they are still much higher than the targets set by health authorities. Brazil is a participant of the UN agreement that aims to reduce MMR to a maximum of 30 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births per year by 2030. “We still have a long way to go to reach this goal within the next 7 years,” Francisco warned.

She compared rates in Brazil with those of more developed regions. According to the data, the mean MMR in Europe is 13 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. “Portugal was shocked when maternal deaths surpassed 20 [maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020] amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The ratio in Brazil, even before the pandemic, was 55,” she said.

“Maternal mortality and infant mortality ratios are powerful indicators of the quality of the healthcare system,” added the OOBr coordinator, who asserted that investing in primary and prenatal care is essential. Francisco also pointed out the preventable nature of maternal mortality in Brazil. “The three main causes of direct maternal mortality in Brazil are high blood pressure, postpartum hemorrhage, and infection, particularly in the postpartum period. These issues are all considered preventable.”

Although it is difficult to prevent preeclampsia, hospital care and maternity care measures can significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by this condition. “For high blood pressure, what we most miss is having specialized prenatal care for at-risk women when the problem is diagnosed during pregnancy.”

Regarding PPH, Francisco calls attention to the importance of training teams to treat the problem. “In Brazil, the lack of training [for professionals] is still a serious problem.”

According to her, investments in rapid response systems are also needed. “As the baby needs nutrients and oxygen, the uterus becomes full of blood vessels at the end of pregnancy. As a result, a PPH leads to significant blood loss. In Brazil, some hospitals don’t even have blood bags. And in some cases, there may not be enough time to get a blood bag from somewhere else.”

Francisco also points out that, although it may not be feasible for all of Brazil’s healthcare units to have blood banks, integrated structures could be created to facilitate access to blood in case of emergency.

A grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the E-MOTIVE project.

This article was translated from the Medscape Portuguese Edition.

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