Ballarat woman's mission to save thousands of mothers  

A former Ballarat woman in charge of groundbreaking research to save thousands of women who die during childbirth each year, says she’s thrilled with a new million-dollar boost.

Dr Michelle McIntosh and her team from Monash University have received a US $1 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further their efforts to save new mums.

Dr Mcintosh, who attended St Thomas More Primary School and Loreto College, said her team would use the money to further test the stability of a dry powder formulation of oxytocin, suitable to be inhaled after childbirth.

Oxytocin is widely used to rapidly induce a contraction of the uterine muscle after birth, preventing potentially fatal excessive bleeding.

Dr McIntosh said developing oxytocin for aerosol delivery would remove the need for refrigerated storage and allowed women to inhale the drug immediately after childbirth, removing barriers in developing countries.

“About 250,000 women die every year from complications arising from childbirth and more than half of those are related to excessive bleeding, or postpartum haemorrhage,” she said.

“Nearly all of that number occur in developing countries — it seldom has fatal consequences in places like Australia.”

Dr McIntosh said the solution her team was developing was needle-free and could be used in the most remote parts of the world.

“We’re trying to make it a powder, so there’s no need for refrigeration which just doesn’t exist in large parts of developing areas,” she said.

“The other thing is that more than half of all women who give birth in developing countries do so at home, so we’re trying to get something that they are able to self-administer.

“The idea is that somebody delivers the inhaler and instructions to them before they give birth.”

Dr McIntosh said she recently travelled to a rural area of India to meet with pregnant women there to discuss the future lifesaver.

“We really just wanted to find out if there were any cultural barriers to using an inhaler or beliefs which might get in the way,” she said.

“I’m heading to Tanzania next year to do the same thing.”

The product is hoped to be on the market within four to five years.

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