Garment Decreases Maternal Mortality by Reducing Bleeding

A specially designed garment that helps to stop excessive bleeding after childbirth—currently the leading cause of maternal deaths in Cambodia, where 250 out of every 100,000 mothers die—has already started saving lives in Cambodia, according to a health worker.

The non-pneumatic, anti-shock garment, which has been in use in Battambang province’s health centers and provincial hospital since April, has so far saved the lives of two mothers who were treated with it last month, said Dr. Jerker Liljestrand, Program Leader for Maternal and Newborn Health and Family Planning with USAID’s Better Health Services project, which is run by University Research Co. LLC (URC) in Cambodia.

“It’s an efficient, simple and inexpensive solution to temporarily reduce bleeding—long enough to transport a critical patient to a better equipped hospital,” Dr. Liljestrand said Wednesday, adding that about 70 percent of Cam­bodian women give birth at small rural health centers that are unequipped to deal with emergencies.

“If a woman has severe bleeding at a health center, how can she survive on the way to the prov­incial hospital?” he said.

In severe cases, a mother can bleed to death within an hour after giving birth. By applying the anti-shock garment, which is made of neoprene and wrapped around a patient’s legs and midsection, compression helps to reduce bleeding and moves blood from the legs toward the upper body, Dr. Liljestrand ex­plained, adding that this simple technique has proven effectively around the world.

Of the roughly 700 mothers who die after childbirth annually in Cambodia, between 200 and 300 could be saved if the garment was adopted in hospitals and health centers nationwide, he estimated.

The plan is to produce the garments in Phnom Penh where $300, the cost of importing a single garment from overseas, can buy 10.

“We’ve made about a hundred garments already, but we have the material and money for another 200,” Dr. Liljestrand said.

At a conference next week, URC hopes to get approval from the government to expand the USAID-funded project to two more provinces.

“We have the resources and we have the budget,” Dr. Liljestrand said.

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