Postpartum haemorrhage in anaemic women: assessing outcome measures for clinical trials

Trials. 2022 Mar 18;23(1):220. doi: 10.1186/s13063-022-06140-z.


Background: Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. Maternal anaemia greatly increases the risk of PPH, and over a third of all pregnant women are anaemic. Because anaemia reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, anaemic women cannot tolerate the same volume of blood loss as healthy women. Yet the same blood loss threshold is used to define PPH in all women. The lack of an established PPH definition in anaemic women means the most appropriate outcome measures for use in clinical trials are open to question. We used data from the WOMAN-2 trial to examine different definitions of PPH in anaemic women and consider their appropriateness as clinical trial outcome measures.

Main body: The WOMAN-2 trial is assessing tranexamic acid (TXA) for PPH prevention in women with moderate or severe anaemia at baseline. To obtain an accurate, precise estimate of the treatment effect, outcome measures should be highly specific and reasonably sensitive. Some outcome misclassification is inevitable. Low sensitivity reduces precision, but low specificity biases the effect estimate towards the null. Outcomes should also be related to how patients feel, function, or survive. The primary outcome in the WOMAN-2 trial, a 'clinical diagnosis of PPH', is defined as estimated blood loss > 500 ml or any blood loss within 24 h sufficient to compromise haemodynamic stability. To explore the utility of several PPH outcome measures, we analysed blinded data from 4521 participants. For each outcome, we assessed its: (1) frequency, (2) specificity for significant bleeding defined as shock index ≥1.0 and (3) association with fatigue (modified fatigue symptom inventory [MFSI]), physical endurance (six-minute walk test) and breathlessness. A clinical diagnosis of PPH was sufficiently frequent (7%), highly specific for clinical signs of early shock (95% specificity for shock index ≥1) and associated with worse maternal functioning after childbirth.

Conclusion: Outcome measures in clinical trials of interventions for PPH prevention should facilitate valid and precise estimation of the treatment effect and be important to women. A clinical diagnosis of PPH appears to meet these criteria, making it an appropriate primary outcome for the WOMAN-2 trial.

Trial registration: NCT03475342, registered on 23 March 2018; ISRCTN62396133, registered on 7 December 2017; Pan African Clinical Trial Registry PACTR201909735842379, registered on 18 September 2019.

Keywords: Anaemia; Bleeding; Haemoglobin; Outcome measure; Postpartum haemorrhage; Randomised controlled trial; Tranexamic acid; Treatment effect; WOMAN-2 trial.

Publication types

  • Letter

MeSH terms

  • Anemia* / diagnosis
  • Anemia* / etiology
  • Anemia* / therapy
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage* / diagnosis
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Tranexamic Acid* / therapeutic use


  • Tranexamic Acid

Associated data