Suit may prevent maternal deaths during childbirth
A re-usable, lightweight suit could help save the lives of thousands of women in poor countries who die each year during childbirth, researchers said on Monday.
The garment, which resembles the bottom half of a wetsuit, restores blood flow to vital organs in women in shock and suffering from obstetrical haemorrhaging, or bleeding, during the birth.
In a pilot study of 364 women in Egypt, the non-pneumatic, anti-shock garment, or NASG, reduced death and severe illness by 69 percent, according to the researchers.
"These results are dramatic, particularly given that the NASG can be easily applied by anyone. No medical training is necessary," said Suellen Miller, a maternal health expert at the University of California, San Francisco who conducted the study.
Haemorrhaging is a leading cause of maternal deaths. About 30 percent of the more than 500,000 mostly poor women who die during childbirth each year suffer from haemorrhaging.
Women in poor countries often give birth at home with little or no trained assistance. When a woman haemorrhages, blood accumulates in the legs and abdomen depriving the brain, heart and lungs of oxygen.
The suit, which consists of five segments with Velcro, pushes blood from the lower parts of the body back to the vital organs. It is designed to keep a woman alive until she can be treated in hospital.
Miller and her team said that within minutes of applying the suit, the women regained consciousness and their vital signs returned to normal.
The scientists, whose findings are reported online by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, used the suit on 206 women with obstetrical haemorrhaging and compared the results with 159 women who had standard treatment for bleeding.
They found that women using the suit lost half the amount of blood as the others.
"In our research, women who appeared clinically dead, with no blood pressure and no palpable pulse, were resuscitated and kept alive for up to two days while waiting for blood transfusions," Miller said in a statement.
The scientists are now planning to test the suit in larger studies.
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited.