Surfing, Wetsuits, and PPH: The Anti-Shock Garment
Six months ago, I moved to sunny Southern California from freezing Connecticut. Growing up in New England, California always seemed like another planet, a tropical paradise inhabited exclusively by surfers, mermaids, and sun-kissed blondes. From my first day in California, the surfing culture did not disappoint. I went to the beach and watched in awe as a hundred surfers fought for the perfect wave. From far away, all I could see were tiny specks of black in the ocean: the black wetsuit-clad bodies of wave worshipers. Little did I know that surfing could relate so intensely to my new job at Salt Creek International Women’s Health Foundation. On my first day at work, I read about postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), a severe birth complication that claims the lives of a human being every four minutes. I stumbled across an article about a life-saving innovation for PPH prevention/management that was, coincidentally, almost exactly what I had been staring at moments before on the horizon: a surfing wetsuit.
So how exactly does a surfing wetsuit hold the key to preventing innocent women from dying of blood loss during childbirth? It turns out that a neoprene (a type of rubber) wetsuit can double as a revolutionary anti-shock garment. When a woman experiences PPH, she might go into life-threatening shock. The wetsuit (anti-shock garment) can help physically stabilize her.
How on earth does this work? This innovative wetsuit, named “LifeWrap,” is secured onto a woman’s legs, pelvis, and abdomen with Velcro, allowing the blood from her lower body to travel to her vital organs, which prevents blood from hemorrhaging and helps steady her from the shock overtaking her body. A pretty unique and powerful use for a surfing garment, no? Unfortunately, the LifeWrap cannot completely save a life from PPH, but it can buy time while a woman is transported to a safe medical facility. I am learning why women are dying so frequently of this preventable complication, and one of the main reasons is a lack of transportation. Many women live in remote areas that are far from an adequate source of care, and the time lost to transportation efforts vastly increases the likelihood of death.
Delaying shock is one way to save lives from PPH, and I was excited to learn that a California-inspired piece of clothing could take on an entirely different identity and purpose in many developing nations. Every little bit helps in the fight against PPH, and every little effort represents a step in the direction of safe births for women everywhere.
You can learn more about the LifeWrap here: http://www.lifewraps.org/lifewrap/
1. Schneider, Maria. “From Surfing to Saving Women’s Lives.” Rabin Martin. N.p., 24 June 2013. Web. 13 Jan. 2014. <http://rabinmartin.com/insight/
Photo Credit: Pathfinder International. n.d. Health Workers in India demonstrate how the anti-shock garment can control postpartum hemorrhage. [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://rabinmartin.com/insight/hemorrhage-saving-womens-lives/