This antishock garment applies pressure to a woman’s lower body to help control postpartum bleeding.
Postpartum hemorrhage kills more mothers than any other cause, but antishock garments may help stop the bleeding
Excessive bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), is the most common cause of illness and death among new mothers. It accounts for about a quarter of all maternal deaths. Nine out of ten of the women who die live in developing countries, where health care facilities and staff often are not equipped to handle obstetric emergencies.
If not treated immediately, PPH can cause irreparable damage to a woman’s vital organs. If the bleeding continues, the sudden loss of large amounts of blood can cause her to go into shock and die.
A garment for lifesaving support
Postpartum hemorrhage is a killer, but it’s also one of the few obstetric complications with proven, effective interventions.
An antishock garment can keep a mother alive until she is treated for postpartum hemmorhage.
One method is the use of a lightweight, neoprene covering that resembles the bottom half of a wetsuit. The nonpneumatic antishock garment is made up of five segments that can be wrapped around a mother’s legs, pelvis, and abdomen, then tightened with Velcro straps. The antishock garment applies pressure to the lower part of a women’s body, forcing blood to key organs including the heart, lungs, and brain. When fitted correctly, it can keep a mother alive until she receives treatment at an emergency obstetric care facility.
Affordable, available, and accessible to all
The one-size-fits-all garment, called “nonpneumatic” because it does not use air pressure, could become an important tool to save women with PPH—if it is affordable, available, and accessible and if health workers receive training in its use. Right now, the garment is too expensive and hard to procure for many countries with limited resources.
To reduce costs, PATH experts are focusing on the costs of production, from raw materials through manufacturing, transport, and delivery. We’re also evaluating regulatory factors that might speed up or slow down widespread use of the garment. This includes developing an efficient and cost-effective shipping plan to get the garment from manufacturers to the places where it’s needed most.
Our results so far indicate that a high-quality, low-cost nonpneumatic antishock garment could be successfully adopted in low-resource settings and have a significant effect in saving the lives of women. We’re assessing several options—including developing strategies for regulatory approvals, procurement, and access—to make the garment available to mothers everywhere.
Photo: Suellen Miller.