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UBT kit saves mothers from bleeding to death

Lilian Kaivilu @liliankaivilu

In a quiet homestead in Kosinyo village, Siaya county, Lilian Achieng rocks her two-month old baby in the living room. Her seven-year-old firstborn sits next to his mother to get a glimpse of the baby who is about to nap. Their brother, two, is playing outside the house.

The children are clearly oblivious of the challenges their mother has undergone the last seven years while giving birth to them. For the 28-year-old, delivering has not always been an easy affair. Since giving birth to her firstborn son, Achieng has experienced postpartum haemorrhage — excessive bleeding after giving birth.

The condition contributes to 287, 000 deaths in Kenya alone. This is 34 per cent of overall maternal deaths, or one in every three deliveries. When Achieng gave birth to her firstborn son in 2011, she experienced minimal complications and bleeding thereafter. “I had a smooth delivery of my first baby. Although I experienced some bleeding, I stabilised soon after,” she recalls.

The same happened when she gave birth to her second born five years later, only that this time the bleeding was worse. Achieng sought help at a nearby health facility. Here, she was injected with some drugs and the bleeding stopped. But nothing could have prepared her for what lay ahead—the complicated birth of her third child on December 7, 2017.

“I experienced heavy bleeding and the injection did not help. It started with very painful labour that lasted about five hours.” Achieng delivered at 12:30 noon at the hospital.

“I held my baby, breastfed her and immediately I became unconscious,” she narrates. Achieng would then experience excessive bleeding. She was then taken to the Akala Health Centre.

“When I woke up, I noticed something strange. The doctor was removing some water from my body using a syringe. It was not painful. At this time, I was fully conscious and the bleeding had stopped,” she explains. It was the UBT kit that was used to stop the excessive bleeding that Achieng experienced after delivery.

This is a locally assembled package by the Kisumu Medical and Education Trust (KMET) aimed at addressing postpartum haemorrhage. The kit consists of a pair of condoms, a rubber catheter, a string, a data card, a referral card and a 60ml syringe. According to Dr Chris Opati, the clinical officer at the health centre, the Uterine Balloon Tamponade (UBT) kit has so far saved lives of two women in the county.

It can be used on women who have undergone normal delivery or Caesarean Section. However, only a qualified health officer can perform the procedure. The UBT kit is used on women who suffer excessive bleeding after delivery. One of the condoms is tied to the catheter using a cotton string. It is then inserted in the woman’s uterus.

Then using the syringe, water is pumped into the balloon. This applies pressure on the uterine wall, hence stopping the bleeding. Dr Opati says the balloon has to be left inside the uterus for between 24 and 36 hours for maximum impact.

According to a new report, Saving Mothers Lives 2017, 42 per cent of maternal deaths reported in the District Health Information System (DHIS) in 2014 involved women having their first or second pregnancy.

The report, by the Ministry of Health, records that two out of five women died due to excessive bleeding during childbirth. The Project Officer and trainer of UBT usage at KMET, Immaculate Otieno, says the kit is being used in 15 counties. The kit, was first used in Kenya in 2012. It costs Sh1, 000.

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