The results of a major clinical trial reveal a cheap drug could prevent the deaths of thousands of mothers around the globe who die in childbirth from excessive blood loss.

The drug, tranexamic acid, has been available for over 50 years, and is used around the globe for a range of reasons, including to control heavy menstrual cycles and as a skin whitener. Now, new research indicates it may be able to control postpartum hemorrhaging.

Read: Childbirth Position Sees Increased Blood Flow With More Pelvic Tilt: Have We Been Wrong All Along?

In an international study, published in The Lancet medical journal, researchers enrolled 20,000 women, who were at least 16 years old, and diagnosed with a postpartum hemorrhage after childbirth. The women came from one of 193 hospitals in 21 countries, primarily in Africa and Asia.

The study results revealed tranexamic acid, which showed no serious side effects, held the most promise when it was administered shortly after the mother's bleeding began. The researchers estimate a third of lives could be saved if the drug is given within three hours of birth.

“It’s safe, affordable and easy to administer, and we hope that doctors will use it as early as possible following the onset of severe bleeding after childbirth,” study author Haleema Shakur said in a press release.

Tranexamic acid was invented in the 1960s with the hope of helping mothers; however, the Japanese inventors, a husband-wife duo, couldn’t convince doctors to conduct a trial.

This new research, called the WOMAN (World Maternal Antifibrinolytic) Trial, shows great hope in combating one of the main killers of women across the globe.

"Globally, severe bleeding in childbirth remains one of the main causes of maternal death -- with alarming numbers of women dying in many low- and middle-income countries,” said Tim Knott, Senior Partner in Innovations at Wellcome Trust. “The WOMAN Trial team undertook a hugely important and incredibly ambitious study. Their work stands to make a critical difference in preventing women dying after childbirth."

More than 100,000 women die every year from postpartum hemorrhaging. Bleeding is normal after birth, but women who experience this condition bleed excessively - usually about half a quart during vaginal birth and one quart during a c-section, according to March of Dimes. If it’s not treated quickly, the condition can lead to shock, and ultimately death.

There’s a range of treatments currently used to help those who experience the condition, including getting fluids, having a blood transfusion, having a hysterectomy or laparotomy, receiving oxygen from a mask, and removing remaining pieces of the placenta from the uterus.

Postpartum hemorrhaging typically happens within 1 day of giving birth, but it’s possible to occur up to 3 months later. Some of the common signs or symptoms that require immediate medical attention include heavy bleeding from the vagina that doesn’t slow, drop in blood pressure, nausea, pale skin, and swelling and pain around the vagina.

See also: Dying In Childbirth 2016: Maternal Death Rate In US Has Worsened Since 2000, Says New Study

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