Safe blood and blood products are crucial for saving mothers’ lives in most critical moments during childbirth and pregnancy

News release

About 12 000 women die every year while giving birth in the Western Pacific Region. Severe bleeding during childbirth is the most common cause of pregnancy-related deaths—many of which could be avoided with timely access to safe blood and blood products.

On World Blood Donor Day (14 June), the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Western Pacific Region calls on governments and policy-makers to take concrete steps to improve access to safe blood and blood products as part of a comprehensive approach to save mothers’ lives. The focus for this year’s campaign is “Safe blood for saving mothers.”

“It is not acceptable that thousands of women die each year in the Western Pacific Region due to pregnancy-related conditions which could be treated,” says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo. “Countries must put in place policies, systems and structures to ensure that women whose severe bleeding persists despite basic preventive and clinical care, have access to safe blood and blood products that may save their lives.”

Transfusion of blood and blood products helps save millions of lives every year. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life, and can support complex medical and surgical procedures. Blood transfusion is one of the key life-saving interventions in hospitals that provide comprehensive emergency obstetric care.

More than 40 years after the World Health Assembly (resolution WHA28.72) for the first time addressed the issue of blood safety, equitable access to safe blood and blood products and the safe use of blood transfusion are still major challenges. Particularly in developing countries, mothers requiring transfusion often do not have timely access to safe blood. Globally, an estimated 289 000 women died in 2013 due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Of those deaths, 27% were due to severe bleeding.

Many countries in the Region have made progress towards reducing maternal mortality. Countries have made available basic birth interventions, such as routine administration of oxytocin, a drug that reduces bleeding by making the womb contract. Still, more women must receive these basic interventions.

WHO recommends that every country should put in place policies, systems and structures to ensure the safety, quality, accessibility and timely availability of blood and blood products to meet the needs of all patients.

For further information, please contact:

Mr Ruel E. Serrano
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific
Assistant, Public Information Office
Telephone: +632 528 9993