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Evolution offers clues to leading cause of death during childbirth
Date:11/2/2011

be used early in pregnancy would allow women to make informed decisions about their choice of birthing site and medical care based on their risk," Abrams said. This biomarker hypothesis has not yet been studied.

Many women in poor countries don't give birth in hospitals or clinics, said Abrams, who has conducted research on childbirth in the sub-Saharan countries of Malawi and Tanzania. By the time postpartum bleeding occurs, it may be too late to reach a health center.

In a normal birth, the placenta begins to separate from the uterine wall before delivery. Bleeding at the site is normally stopped by the constriction of blood vessels due to the contraction and retraction of uterine muscles. Hemorrhage can occur weeks after birth, but most deaths occur within four hours of delivery.

There are two major risk factors for postpartum hemorrhage, said Rutherford. The leading factor is uterine contractions that are too weak to stop bleeding. The cause of this is unclear, but it could delay delivery of the placenta -- which is the other known risk factor, she said. The best predictor for any woman is previous postpartum hemorrhage, "which has disturbing implications for women in resource-poor settings," Abrams said.

Understanding how the human placenta differs from that of other primates is a new approach, and according to Abrams and Rutherford, it is one that might help explain the mechanisms underlying risk factors in humans.


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Contact: Sam Hostettler
samhos@uic.edu
312-355-2522
University of Illinois at Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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