Saving women's lives: Podcast on how we can help more women survive postpartum hemorrhage (PPH)
"My name is Beth and I survived childbirth! I want to share my experience of having severe postpartum hemorrhage along with a hysterectomy. Maybe my little blog can help someone out there..."
Read more: About Beth, a PPH Survivor
Postpartum hemorrhage is not a topic one typically hears about in the United States. As someone who has heard the stories first-hand from a cousin and a friend who experienced PPH -- excessive bleeding after childbirth -- I think I know why: This experience is often graphic and terrifying, as Beth's blog indicates above. Postpartum hemorrhage occurs in 1 in 20 American births and is the second leading cause of maternal death in the U.S.
Abroad, these statistics spike: The incidence of "PPH" in childbirth skyrockets from 2-5 percent of U.S. births to 30 percent of maternal deaths internationally, with particular suffering among poor women in Africa and India:
...[W]orldwide, about 500,000 maternal deaths occur during childbirth each year, with postpartum hemorrhage accounting for about 30 percent of those deaths. The comparable rate in the U.S. is about 10 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, with postpartum hemorrhage accounting for about 17 percent of these deaths.
~ National Institutes of Health News, Oct. 5, 2006
The good news -- news that may also make you want to scream with frustration -- is that a solution exists, in the form of the the drug misoprostol, a relatively inexpensive drug that can begin today to save the lives of these women and improve the lives of their other living children. More here: "Drug prevents postpartum hemorrhage in resource-poor settings: Advance has potential to save thousands of lives"
Meet Dr. Mary D'Alton, from whom I recently learned about this study and new techniques to care for and treat PPH as part of the BlogHers Act initiative aimed at improving maternal health worldwide. In support of this program, Revolution Health and Dr. Val Jones, in December 2007 brought together four bloggers to interview Dr. D'Alton. The chair of Columbia University's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. D'Alton specializes in prenatal diagnosis, multiple pregnancies and medical complications in pregnancy. She is a pregnancy expert with Revolutionhealth.com.
In our podcast, Dr. D'Alton speaks for nearly an hour with:
* Kathryn Thompson, Daring Young Mom
* Catherine Morgan, BlogHer Health & Wellness and CatherineBlogs.com
* Maria Niles, BlogHer editor-at-large and Beyond Help
After I introduce Dr. D'Alton, these bloggers ask a robust list of questions, including:
* What causes PPH?
* How can PPH be prevented?
* How can PPH be stopped?
* What's the incidence of PPH in the U.S. versus abroad?
* Can a midwife delivering a child at home effectively diagnose and help treat PPH?
* Where are safe obstetrics practices being taught (learn about a great program in Eritrea and work by the World Health Organization)
* What are the costs of different drugs for international programs? (Misoprostil is $20, the next drug, Dinoprostil, costs about $200 or 10 times more!)
* Does birth control play an important role in providing women's bodies with time to recover from PPH?
Via Dr. D'Alton, as you'll hear, we learn that this condition doesn't have to kill. With the right obstetrical training and drug therapies, women can survive the experience, can avoid hysterectomy and may go on to delivery healthy babies the next time they are pregnant.
To me, the next step appears to be identifying programs that can help save women's lives abroad. Based on my experience, I have written to the following program to ask how to contribute:
* Venture Strategies: Frontline Health Extension Workers trained in misoprostol use throughout rural Ethiopia plus a story by Shashu Ayele: Access to Care
* Saving Mothers
Edmund's Blog: Drug Prevents PostPartum Hemorrhage in Resource-Poor Settings
Building the Ark: How'd you get here from there?-Part I
Mothering.com: Pitocin to prevent post-partum hemorrhage?
So share, you soft-hearted wonder women: What will you do to help?
(Listen to the entire conversation here, and apologies for the lengthy preamble -- I wanted to make sure you knew Dr. D'Alton's extraordinary qualifications. )