This drug may help save moms’ lives during childbirth, WHO says

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CDC Reports That 1 in 14 Pregnant Women Still Smoke Cigarettes According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the younger and less educated the women are, the more likely they are to smoke while pregnant. These levels do vary widely by state, maternal age, race and Hispanic origin, and education, but any amount of smoking during pregnancy is too much. The numbers, which were based off data from 2016, are down three percent from 2011. Smoking during pregnancy has been proven to increase the risks

The United States has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, with about 700 women dying each year as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications, according to Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

» RELATED: Black moms three times more likely to die in childbirth than white moms

The childbirth mortality rate is three times higher for black women compared to white women.

And worldwide, approximately 70,000 women die each year due to post-partum hemorrhage, according to the World Health Organization.

But this week, the WHO announced a possible new solution that could save tens of thousands of lives each year.

» RELATED: New blood test could predict pregnant woman's due date, premature birth risk

WHO researchers teamed up with Merck for Mothers for a massive global trial of 30,000 women in 10 countries to test the effectiveness of a heat-stable version of a molecule similar to oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a drug often given to women to help the uterus tighten and prevent women from losing too much blood.

While the uterus can sometimes control the bleeding on its own, in about 1 in 6 women in the U.S., it can't contract quickly enough to stop the bleeding, NPR reported.

» RELATED: Black infants in US more than twice as likely to die as white infants now, study finds

Additionally, oxytocin degrades when stored at temperatures above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and it isn’t widely accessible around the world.

But this new heat-stable version of the molecule developed by chemists at Ferring Pharmaceuticals can retain its potency for three years even after temperatures climb to 86 degrees Fahrenheit — and it’s as effective for six months at a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the trial, half of the 30,000 women (from Argentina, Egypt, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda or the United Kingdom) received a shot of oxytocin right after giving birth vaginally and the other half received a shot of the heat-stable oxytocin-like molecule carbetocin.

» RELATED: One woman in 14 still smokes while pregnant — and these states have the highest rates

Researchers found that both groups had similar blood loss with about 14.5 percent in each group losing a half liter of blood after childbirth. There was no statistically significant difference between the groups for women who lost more than a liter of blood.

"This is a truly encouraging new development that can revolutionize our ability to keep mothers and babies alive," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news release Wednesday.

» RELATED: Study: Death of loved one during pregnancy may impact mental health of child

The new drug, if approved, is especially “good news for the million of women who give birth in parts of the world without access to reliable refrigeration,” WHO researcher Metin Gülmezoglu added.

The new research was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.