oxytocin chemical structureA procedure that promises to prevent the fatal loss of blood after childbirth in women residing in developing countries moves a step closer to becoming a reality after receiving a $500,000 gift from Australia's Planet Wheeler Foundation. Postpartum bleeding is a major cause of death in developing countries.

Bleeding during pregnancy can occur for a variety of reasons. Vaginal bleeding in the first trimester occurs frequently and may not be a sign of problems. Bleeding in the second or third trimester, however, may be a sign of serious pregnancy complications. Bleeding during pregnancy may be a sign of miscarriage, placental problems, and ectopic pregnancies, which occur when the egg implants outside the uterus.

In the past ten years, more than a million women in developing countries died after excessive bleeding during pregnancy. Doctors in developed countries administer an injection of oxytocin to prevent or control this bleeding. Oxytocin stops postpartum bleeding by causing the uterus to contract, effectively squeezing all the blood out of blood vessels. Unfortunately, oxytocin requires cold storage and professional administration – both in short supply in developing countries. This innovative procedure circumvents these problems.

Dr. Michelle McIntosh from Monash University and her associates are working to develop a device women can use to inhale a dry powder form of oxytocin immediately after giving birth. The funding from Planet Wheeler Foundation helps McIntosh and her cohorts move the testing to human trials. The contribution from was a response to a challenge issued by McCall MacBain Foundation, an international philanthropic organization that promises to give another million dollars if other donors contribute $2 million more. The $3 million raised will ensure enough funds to move the project through the human testing phase.

The Planet Wheeler Foundation is a foundation based in Melbourne Australia. Formed by the co-founders of the Lonely Planet Publications, the foundation supports various humanitarian projects in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Cambodia, East Africa, and Laos. The leader of the project to develop a means of delivering powder oxytocin, Dr Michelle McIntosh, continues to seek funding for this essential innovation.

Source: Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. "Life-saving formula a step closer to human trials." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 23 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 Jan. 2014.