The Barriers to the Integration of the Uterine Balloon Tamponade into South Africa and Ghana's Health Systems for the Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage

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Watt, Melissa

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Postpartum hemorrhage is the most significant contributor to maternal mortality globally, claiming 140,000 lives annually. Postpartum hemorrhage is a leading cause of maternal death in South Africa, with the literature indicating that 80 percent of the postpartum hemorrhage deaths in South Africa are avoidable. Ghana, as of 2010, witnesses 2700 maternal deaths annually, primarily because of poor quality of care in health facilities and services being difficult to access. As per WHO recommendations, uterotonics are integral to treating postpartum hemorrhage as soon as it is diagnosed. In case of persistent bleeding or limited availability of uterotonics, the uterine balloon tamponade (UBT) can be used as a second line of defense. If both these measures are unable to counter the bleeding, providers must perform surgical interventions. Literature on the UBT, as one tool in the protocol to address postpartum hemorrhage, has shown it to have success rates ranging from 60 to 100 percent. Despite the potential to lower the number of postpartum hemorrhage deaths in South Africa and Ghana, the UBT has not been incorporated widely in South Africa and Ghana. The aim of this study is to describe the barriers involved with integrating the UBT into South Africa and Ghana’s health systems to address postpartum hemorrhage.


The study took place in multiple sites in South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Mpumalanga) and in Accra, Ghana. South Africa and Ghana were selected because postpartum hemorrhage contributes greatly to their maternal mortality numbers and there is potential in both countries to lower those rates through greater use of the UBT. A total of 25 participants were interviewed through purposive sampling, snowball sampling and participant referrals, and included various categories of stakeholders integral to the integration process of a medical device. Individual in-depth interviews were used for data collection, with interview questions being tailored to each stakeholder category. The focus of the interviews was on the protocol used to counter postpartum hemorrhage, the frequency with which the UBT is used as part of the protocol, and the process of integrating it into the South Africa and Ghana’s health systems. The data collected were coded using NVivo and analyzed using content analysis.


The barriers to integration of the uterine balloon tamponade to address postpartum hemorrhage in South Africa and Ghana were evident on the political, economic and health delivery levels. The results indicated that the barriers to integration in South Africa included the low recognition of postpartum hemorrhage as a problem, the lack of clarity surrounding the role of the Medicines Control Council as a regulatory body for medical devices, and low awareness of the UBT as an intervention to control postpartum hemorrhage. The barriers in Ghana were the cash constraints experienced by the Ghana Health Services to fund medical devices, a heavy reliance on donors for funding, and the lack of consistent knowledge on processes involving clinical trials for new medical devices in Ghana.


Existing literature on methods to counter postpartum hemorrhage to reduce maternal mortality has focused on and emphasized the efficacy of the UBT. Despite overwhelming evidence supporting the use of the UBT, many health systems across the world, particularly low-income countries, do not have access to the device owing to numerous barriers in integrating the device into obstetric care. This study illustrates the need to focus on incorporating the UBT into health systems for greater availability to health workers and its use as standard of care. Ultimately, this study can be used as a stepping-stone for more research on this subject, providing evidence to influence policymakers to integrate the UBT into their protocols for postpartum hemorrhage response.






Mehta, Adityavarman Umesh (2016). The Barriers to the Integration of the Uterine Balloon Tamponade into South Africa and Ghana's Health Systems for the Management of Postpartum Hemorrhage. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


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