A leading cause of death during childbirth is hemorrhaging caused by blood vessels that are left open when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall. As many as one in six women’s blood vessels do not close up on their own, which can lead to death if proper help is not available. In most developed countries, when a woman is experiencing this issue post-childbirth, she is given oxytocin to help the blood vessels constrict more quickly and save her life. However, oxytocin is not a viable option in many places.
Oxytocin isn’t heat stable beyond 86 degrees Fahrenheit, so it isn’t possible to store it properly in every climate. So even if it’s available to a woman who is bleeding out during childbirth, it may not be effective as there is often no way to determine whether vials of it have been compromised by heat during storage.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is now reporting that scientists have figured out a solution. After learning about a heat-stable oxytocin-like molecule that was developed by a pharmaceutical company several years ago, WHO began running trials all throughout the world to test the effectiveness of the new drug, which is called heat-stable carbetocin.
Studies included almost 30 thousand women who were given either oxytocin or carbetocin after vaginal childbirth and it was discovered that carbetocin works as well as oxytocin to help stop blood loss after childbirth. The only remaining challenge is ensuring that carbetocin is available affordably worldwide.
Late in 2017 information came out detailing how Black women in America suffer higher rates of death during childbirth than other races, in part due to the fact that Black women from low-income areas have less access to quality healthcare compared to higher income White women. I can’t help but wonder if affordable carbetocin could also provide a solution to this baffling disparity right here in the United States.
It’s encouraging that WHO is seeking to find a way to make this potentially life-saving drug affordable to women from all socio-economic sectors throughout the world. Women should not have to fear for their lives during what should be an incredibly joyous occasion, especially when it comes to issues that modern medicine has already solved.