RCSI Researcher receives grant to reduce maternal mortality rates

An RCSI researcher, Dr Michelle Lavin, has received a grant to reduce bleeding during childbirth by diagnosing undetected bleeding disorders. Her grant was awarded alongside seven other projects that are dedicated to improving women’s health issues and women’s access to healthcare.

Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a leading cause of maternal mortality globally, with one new mother dying every six minutes according to a 2014 WHO systemic analysis. This accounts for more than a third of all maternal deaths, which a large number are avoidable.

Despite advances in pregnancy care in developed countries, the rate of haemorrhage is also on the rise. A study from 2016 showed that the rate of PPH rose from 4.1% in 2000 to 6.4% in 2013. The study notes that this trend is in line with international observations.

Dr Lavin’s research aims to determine if obstetricians can detect a woman’s risk of bleeding through a simple screening survey. This would allow appropriate and timely treatments to be ready during birth.

The objective of the project is to encourage the adoption of this simple form of screening into routine obstetric care, ultimately to reduce the number of deaths worldwide.

“Bleeding disorders are common but women may only be diagnosed after they experience a postpartum haemorrhage. Current obstetric care does not include assessment for bleeding disorders,” said Dr Lavin, from the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, and Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics, RCSI.

“If our study can show that using a simple survey at a woman’s antenatal visit could save her life in the delivery room, it is imperative that we incorporate it into standard practice.”
Last May, the AXA Research Fund issued a global call for projects dedicated to women’s health issues and women’s access to healthcare. Top tier universities in 17 countries submitted 39 applications for the grants. For International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Fund revealed the eight selected projects for a funding of €125,000 euros each over two years.

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