Devices set to benefit pregnant women and babies

In an attempt to prevent maternal deaths and to support breastfeeding, a South African biomedical company has invented two products that are meant to address these needs.

The Ellavi UBT (Uterine Balloon Tamponade) is an innovative medical device that is meant to address the challenge faced by caregivers when trying to stop postpartum bleeding due to the anatomy of the uterus.

The feeding cup is a multipurpose cup that supports breastfeeding and protects infants from bacterial contaminants which are commonly associated with bottle feeding.

"Bleeding after birth is close to a third of the causes for mothers to die; it costs about a 130 000 lives in sub-Saharan Africa and if you look at the complications of anaemia, it probably affects close to 2.5 million mothers every year. If it was bleeding from an arm or an external wound, it would've been fairly easy just to apply pressure to it, but the position of the uterus and the orientation of it makes it slightly more challenging," says the managing director at Sinapi Biomedical, Chris de Villiers.

A collaboration between Sinapi, international non-profit health innovation organisation Path, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) and other specialists, led to the creation of the UBT.

How the balloon works

"[Over] the last three to four years, we developed a balloon. The balloon is positioned inside the uterus after birth, [and] is relatively easy. It's deflated and inserted into the uterus by a doctor, a specialist or midwife. Then it's positioned in the correct place and then they fill the bag with fluids like sterile water or clean water. The bag then expands inside the uterus and applies pressure. The pressure needs to be slightly more than the blood pressure, and it stops the bleeding effectively. Thereafter, because it's a free flow system when the uterus wants to contract, it pushes the water back into the bag and then you can see the fluid rising in the bag, then you know that the uterus has contracted and it's safe to take the balloon out."

More than 600 of the Ellavi UBT have been sold to both public and private health facilities. More are expected to be used in clinical trials in Kenya and Ghana, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) would like to use it for trials in Vietnam.

Africa ready for such innovation

Sibusiso Hlatjwako from Path says that health research and development as a driver of universal health coverage and the National Health Insurance (NHI)  is a very important tool for the organisation.

"Africa is in a very positive position; we've got the fastest-growing population in the world but also it means that if we don't address our disease burden when we've got a growing population, we're still going to have more challenges. It is for those reasons that we feel that innovation is very important in ensuring that healthcare is affordable, healthcare is accessible and people get to access those innovations."

Hlatjwako believes that innovation can make UHC and NHI more attainable.

"To achieve universal health coverage, we need significance in new investments in research and developments for new drugs, for diagnostics and other tools. Especially for targeted and underserved populations."

A cup for babies

Another one of Sinapi Biomedical's products in their maternal and child health product range is the Sinapi Cup. Which, according to the national sales manager, Magda Botha was invented following a request by the Department of Health and the Groote Schuur Hospital neonatal department in 2002.

"The assignment was [to] design a feeding cup without spouts, straws, teats or rough surfaces. What was needed was a multipurpose cup that would not impede breastfeeding and would fulfil a host of specifications. Mixing replacement or supplementary feeds or cup feeding with success and easy cleaning were important criteria."

The WHO has recommended cup feeding as a preferred artificial method to support safe and sound infant feeding practices.

Hygienic and safe

“Artificial feeding methods are commonly associated with increased risks for developing infections among infants. The most common cause for these infections is bacterial contamination of artificial feeding devices such as feeding bottles.”

The Sinapi Cup supports objectives mentioned in a United Nations Children's Fund review on preterm breastfeeding, which states that expressed breast milk should be offered by cup rather bottle as this leads to higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding at discharge from hospital.

“The cup is suitable for preterm infants who cannot suck yet. It helps mothers overcome breastfeeding complications (cracked nipples, mastitis), it prevents nipple confusion and it is hygienic and safe and cannot be propped,” says Botha.

Other benefits of the cup are that it prevents bottle role models, is easy to express into, has a safe storage lid that seals watertight, and can be put in a fridge or freezer.

– Health-e News

Image credit: iStock

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