Mat Red

Staff Writer | The Economist | May 18, 2013

Medical technology need not be sophisticated to be effective

EVEN in rich countries childbirth is not a tidy affair. On an earthen floor in a dimly lit home in Bangladesh it can be a killer. Bangladesh has nevertheless reduced maternal deaths during childbirth by 40%, from 322 per 100,000 births to 194, during the first decade of this century. It has done so in several ways: by encouraging women to give birth in hospitals and clinics; by giving better training to the women who act as informal midwives for those who give birth at home; and by improving obstetric treatment when things go wrong. When exactly things are going wrong, though, is not always obvious. In particular, the blood of a healthy birth can be hard to distinguish from the blood of a life-threatening haemorrhage.

An invention by Mohammad Abdul Quaiyum of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Dhaka should help to change that by providing a simple indication of whether a woman who has just given birth is in danger of bleeding to death. This invention is a standardised birth mat.