Women who trialled a new nutritional supplement during pregnancy tended to have shorter labours and were less likely to have severe bleeding.
Major postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a birth complication where women lose a large amount of blood after giving birth. It accounts for almost a quarter of maternal deaths globally.
New results from the NiPPeR trial suggest that taking a new supplement before and during pregnancy could lower this risk and reduce the occurrence of this potentially life-threatening emergency.
The trial was led by Prof Keith Godfrey, Theme Lead for Nutrition, Lifestyle & Metabolism at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.
The NiPPeR trial recruited 1,729 women aged 18 to 38 years in the UK, Singapore, and New Zealand who were planning a pregnancy between 2015 and 2017.
Half the women drank a special combined myo-inositol, probiotics, and micronutrient supplement twice a day before and during pregnancy. The other half took a standard pregnancy supplement.
The trial was set up with the primary outcome of seeing if the special supplement improved blood sugar control – which is used to diagnose gestational diabetes. While the researchers found no evidence the supplement helped prevent high blood sugar levels, they did see a reduction in major PPH, along with a previously reported reduction in preterm delivery.
Quicker and safer births
A new study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology MFM, investigated this further. It found women who took the special supplement had a shorter duration of labour and lower blood loss.
The second stage of labour, when the baby is delivered, was 20% shorter in these women. This meant there was less need for an assisted birth, where forceps or a ventouse suction cup are used to help deliver the baby. Estimated blood loss was 10% lower.
Having a prolonged labour or an assisted birth both increase the risk of PPH. This is likely due to a higher risk of the womb muscles becoming too weak to contract enough to clamp the placental blood vessels shut after birth. The resultant bleeding, if not treated quickly, can be life-threatening.
Prof Godfrey said: “These results have important implications that could save the lives of women across the world. Nutritional measures to reduce blood loss during childbirth could be particularly important for women in developing countries, where a large proportion of maternal deaths during childbirth are still caused by PPH.”