Local sculptor raises awareness of maternal deaths

Local sculptor raises awareness of maternal deaths

Published by The Wessex FM News Team at 7:31am 18th February 2018.

Moira Purver's work highlights the fact that every six minutes a new mum will die from blood loss.

  • Deadly bleeding after birth kills 100,000 women every year – one every 6 minutes
  • A simple drug could be used to save 30% of these women
  • Local artist Moira Purver’s raising awareness to bring about change

 A local sculptor has been tasked with a very special commission. Moira Purver from Langton Matravers has been asked to create a mother and baby sculpture to raise awareness of postpartum haemorrhage.

Across the world a mother dies in childbirth every six minutes, but new research shows a cheap and widely available drug - tranexamic acid - can reduce the risk of death by thirty percent.

Postpartum haemorrhage is the number one cause of maternal death around the world, particularly in low and middle income countries.

Moira says not enough women are getting access to this life-saving drug. She is supporting the WOMAN Study, published in the Lancet in last year, in a visual way:

“We’re trying to find as many ways as we can of showing the sculpture because when you tell people the story behind the sculpture and the fact that in this day and age there are still women dying every six minutes, bleeding to death after birth, that really grabs people's attention."

Sculpture cast in bronze

“This drug, which I can buy at any pharmacy, could save the lives of thousands of women a year if it's given quickly to new mothers who suffer deadly bleeding.

“Haleema Shakur-Still, one of the joint authors of this study and who commissioned the sculpture, believes that many women who develop severe bleeding after childbirth are still unlikely to benefit from this new information anytime soon unless we can get the message spread more widely.”

The sculpture depicts the moments just after birth.

‘WOMAN’ stands for ‘World Maternal Antifibrinolytic Trial’. The huge trial recruited 20,060 women at 193 hospitals across 21 countries and was a huge success, showing that tranexamic acid can be used to reduce the risk of a woman dying by about 30%, if administered within three hours of delivery, and it’s shown to have no side effects.

"This is the most absorbed I've been in a sculpture. A death every six minutes is too important to ignore."

Moira hopes the sculpture will tell a story that will resonate with people: “The sculpture, of a mother with her newborn baby, is designed to bring the scientific results of this research to life.  

"I wanted to illustrate the happiness, joy and overwhelming love a mother feels the first time she holds her baby, the vulnerability of a new baby and why we must do all we can to make sure babies have their mother alive.   

"The sculpture depicts the first minutes after birth when the mother is still kneeling and clutching her baby protectively. These are also the moments when the mother’s life is most at risk. Hopefully by promoting and displaying this sculpture, more people will learn about the importance of these results. “

Moira’s sculpture will be on permanent display at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which has been involved in the study from the start.

Prof Ian Roberts, from LSHTM said: “Postpartum haemorrhage happens everywhere – in high income and in low and middle incomes countries. But most of the deaths occur in poor countries.

“In research you’ve got a choice. You can either be a big part of something trivial or a small part of something really worthwhile, and we opted to bring people together to do something that none of them could have done on their own.”

But Moira has a more personal motivation for wanting to be involved in the trial:

"I was told in my 20s that I would never be able to have children - that just added to the poignancy of the whole thing because if I couldn’t have children myself, this was something where I could actively do something that would help other women still be alive to enjoy their children and bring them up.

"I think this is the most absorbed I've been in any sculpture - because the end result was so important and because I was working with a young mother who had only just had a baby, so all her memories were very fresh and the whole thing was very real."

Six months after results from the WOMAN trial were published, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its guidelines to include the use of tranexamic acid for prevention of PPH.

Moira's not the only one who wants to get the message across in a visual way. Dr Graham Tydeman created a 'Blood Clock' to highlight the devastating scale of severe bleeding after childbirth:

To find out more about the WOMAN trial click here.

And to see more of Moira’s work visit her website