A Garment Originally Made for Astronauts is Saving the Lives of New Mothers in Developing Countries

by Ananya Bhattacharya
Editorial Fellow, Quartz, December 19, 2016

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While doctors at Stanford University Hospital gave a woman who had given birth to a healthy baby, but who kept hemorrhaging dangerous amounts of blood, a blood transfusion, engineers at the space agency brainstormed solutions to stop the bleeding. They decided to try an anti-gravity suit – typically used to keep astronauts from blacking out during extreme acceleration by squeezing the arms and legs to push blood back towards the head – to apply external pressure to the woman’s lower body and drive blood upward. It was a success, and the woman’s life was saved. The wetsuit-like contraption, which has since been christened LifeWrap, is made of a synthetic rubber called neoprene and uses Velcro fastenings to alter the pressure applied. The anti-shock garment is a first-aid measure: Strapping on LifeWrap soon after giving birth can help contain or at least slow down excess bleeding.

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