Tranexamic acid for preventing bleeding after delivery

Postpartum haemorrhage is a common and an occasionally life-threatening complication of labour. The majority of women receive drugs that directly stimulate the uterus (prophylactic uterotonics) during childbirth to prevent haemorrhages resulting from failure of the uterine muscle to contract normally (uterine atony).

Tranexamic acid (TA) is used to decrease blood loss in surgery and health conditions associated with increased bleeding. It works by helping to prevent the breakdown of fibrin and maintenance of blood clots. This review found that TA was also effective in reducing excessive blood loss, need for additional medical interventions to control bleeding and blood transfusions after a mother gave birth based on studies of mixed quality. Twelve trials (3285 participants) were included in the review. TA was given before caesarean section in nine randomised trials or following the vaginal birth of a baby (three randomised trials) to generally healthy women.

TA decreased blood loss greater than 400 mL or greater than 500 mL and this effect was more apparent with vaginal births. The studies had methodological shortcomings. Blood loss greater than 1000 mL decreased with the use of TA in six trials (2093 women), however, the difference was most obvious in caesarean section (two trials, 1400 women) and not in vaginal birth in which there were few such outcomes (one trial, 439 women). Mean blood loss decreased with the use of TA by 77 mL, overall (five studies, 1186 women) and with both vaginal and caesarean section births. This finding was based on studies with methodological limitations.

The studies were too small to detect the effect of TA on maternal death or blood clots. Mild side effects, which include diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, were more common in women who received TA versus placebo or no intervention. No differences in blood loss and side effects were found when two different doses of TA were evaluated. Further larger studies are needed to investigate the effects of TA on maternal deaths and formation of clots in the blood (thromboembolism).

Authors' conclusions: 

TA (in addition to uterotonic medications) decreases postpartum blood loss and prevents PPH and blood transfusions following vaginal birth and CS in women at low risk of PPH based on studies of mixed quality. There is insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about serious side effects, but there is an increase in the incidence of minor side effects with the use of TA. Effects of TA on thromboembolic events and mortality as well as its use in high-risk women should be investigated further.

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Background: 

Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a common and potentially life-threatening complication of labour. Several options for preventing PPH are available, but further advances in this field are important, especially the identification of safe, easy to use and cost-effective regimens. Tranexamic acid (TA), which is an antifibrinolytic agent that is used widely to prevent and treat haemorrhage, merits evaluation to assess whether it meets these criteria.

Objectives: 

To determine, from the best available evidence, whether TA is effective and safe for preventing PPH in comparison to placebo or no treatment (with or without uterotonic co-treatment), or to uterotonic agents.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (28 January 2015) and reference lists of retrieved studies.

Selection criteria: 

All published, unpublished and ongoing randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating the use of TA alone or in addition to uterotonics in the third stage of labour or during caesarean section (CS) to prevent PPH.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently assessed for inclusion all the potential studies identified as a result of the search strategy. We entered the data into Review Manager software and checked for accuracy.

Main results: 

Twelve trials involving 3285 healthy women at low risk of excessive bleeding undergoing elective CS (nine trials, 2453 participants) or spontaneous birth (three trials, 832 participants) satisfied inclusion criteria and contributed data to the analysis. All participants received routine prophylactic uterotonics in accordance with the local guideline in addition to TA or placebo or no intervention. Overall, included studies had moderate risk of bias for random sequence generation, allocation concealment, blinding, selective reporting and low risk of bias for incomplete data. The quality of evidence was also as assessed using GRADE.

Blood loss greater than 400 mL or 500 mL, and more than 1000 mL was less common in women who received TA versus placebo or no intervention (risk ratio (RR) 0.52, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.42 to 0.63, six trials, 1398 women; moderate quality evidence) and (RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.23 to 0.71, six trials, 2093 women; moderate quality evidence), respectively. TA was effective in decreasing the incidence of blood loss greater than 1000 mL in women who had undergone CS (RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.23, 0.78, four trials, 1534 women), but not vaginal birth (RR 0.28, 95% CI 0.06, 1.36, two trials 559 women). The effect of TA on blood loss greater than 500 mL or 400 mL was more pronounced in the group of women having vaginal birth than in women who had CS. Mean blood loss (from delivery until two hours postpartum) was lower in women who received TA versus placebo or no intervention (mean difference MD - 77.79 mL, 95% CI -97.95, -57.64, five trials, 1186 women) and this effect was similar following vaginal birth and CS.

Additional medical interventions (moderate quality evidence) and blood transfusions were less frequent in women receiving TA versus placebo or no interventions. Mild side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness were more common with the use of TA (moderate quality evidence). The effect of TA on maternal mortality, severe morbidity and thromboembolic events is uncertain (low quality evidence).

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