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1.  The Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth in Health Facilities Globally: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(6):e1001847.
Background
Despite growing recognition of neglectful, abusive, and disrespectful treatment of women during childbirth in health facilities, there is no consensus at a global level on how these occurrences are defined and measured. This mixed-methods systematic review aims to synthesize qualitative and quantitative evidence on the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities to inform the development of an evidence-based typology of the phenomenon.
Methods and Findings
We searched PubMed, CINAHL, and Embase databases and grey literature using a predetermined search strategy to identify qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies on the mistreatment of women during childbirth across all geographical and income-level settings. We used a thematic synthesis approach to synthesize the qualitative evidence and assessed the confidence in the qualitative review findings using the CERQual approach. In total, 65 studies were included from 34 countries. Qualitative findings were organized under seven domains: (1) physical abuse, (2) sexual abuse, (3) verbal abuse, (4) stigma and discrimination, (5) failure to meet professional standards of care, (6) poor rapport between women and providers, and (7) health system conditions and constraints. Due to high heterogeneity of the quantitative data, we were unable to conduct a meta-analysis; instead, we present descriptions of study characteristics, outcome measures, and results. Additional themes identified in the quantitative studies are integrated into the typology.
Conclusions
This systematic review presents a comprehensive, evidence-based typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities, and demonstrates that mistreatment can occur at the level of interaction between the woman and provider, as well as through systemic failures at the health facility and health system levels. We propose this typology be adopted to describe the phenomenon and be used to develop measurement tools and inform future research, programs, and interventions.
Meghan Bohren and colleagues review the extent and types of mistreatment against women during childbirth.
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2000, as Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, world leaders set a target of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio—the number of deaths among women caused by pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications (maternal deaths) per 100,000 live births—to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. MDG 5, along with seven other MDGs, was designed to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015. Although progress towards MDG 5 (and towards the other MDGs) has been good, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio was still 210, well above the target of 95. In that year alone, nearly 300,000 women, 99% them living in low- and middle-income countries, died from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Most of these maternal deaths were caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding) after childbirth, post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, or blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. These conditions are largely preventable if women have access to good-quality reproductive health services and if trained birth attendants are present during childbirth.
Why Was This Study Done?
The rates of skilled birth attendance and of facility-based childbirth have risen in resource-limited countries over the past two decades, but almost a third of women in these countries still deliver without a skilled birth attendant. Among the numerous obstacles likely to prevent further increases in the proportion of women delivering in a health facility is women’s fear of mistreatment during delivery. Women need to be sure that they will receive dignified and respectful care during childbirth. Unfortunately, recent studies have indicated that women are often exposed to neglectful, abusive, and disrespectful care (care that local consensus regards as humiliating or undignified) during childbirth in health facilities. There is currently no consensus about how to define and measure the mistreatment of women during childbirth, so here, the researchers develop an evidence-based typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities worldwide by combining information identified in a mixed-methods systematic review. A typology is a systematic classification of objects or behaviors that have characteristics in common. A mixed-methods systematic review identifies all the qualitative and quantitative research on a given topic using predefined criteria. Qualitative research investigates how people feel about a medical intervention; quantitative research provides numerical data about interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 65 (mainly qualitative) studies undertaken in 34 countries that investigated the mistreatment of women during childbirth across all geographical and income-level settings. They analyzed the evidence presented in these studies using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies and organizes patterns (themes) within qualitative data. Based on this analysis, the researchers developed a typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth consisting of seven domains (categories). These domains were physical abuse (for example, slapping or pinching during delivery); sexual abuse; verbal abuse such as harsh or rude language; stigma and discrimination based on age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or medical conditions; failure to meet professional standards of care (for example, neglect during delivery); poor rapport between women and providers, including ineffective communication, lack of supportive care, and loss of autonomy; and health system conditions and constraints such as the lack of the resources needed to provide women with privacy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings illustrate how women’s experiences of childbirth worldwide are marred by mistreatment. Moreover, they indicate that, although the mistreatment of women during delivery in health facilities often occurs at the level of the interaction between women and healthcare providers, systemic failures at the levels of the health facility and the health system also contribute to its occurrence. Further studies are needed to provide quantitative evidence of the burden of mistreatment of women during delivery and to identify the characteristics of health facilities that facilitate or mitigate the mistreatment of women. For now, though, the researchers call for the adoption of their evidence-based typology as a way to describe the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities. Their typology, they suggest, could also be used to develop measurement tools and to design interventions that ensure that health care providers promote positive birth experiences by providing respectful, dignified, and supportive care to women during childbirth. Hopefully, such interventions will lead to more women deciding to deliver their babies in health facilities, will promote positive birth experiences, and, ultimately, will lead to further reductions in maternal deaths.
Additional Information
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001847.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Rachel Jewkes and Loveday Penn-Kekana
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a statement on promoting the rights of women and access to safe, timely, respectful care during childbirth
The White Ribbon Alliance promotes the universal rights of childbearing women
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal health and on the recent decline in maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5 (in several languages) and information about the prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals and The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014, which details progress on reaching these goals, are available (in several languages)
Immpact is a research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper that was published by the humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières in 2012
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about maternal death
More information is available on the CERQual approach for assessing confidence in the evidence from reviews of qualitative research
The Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group has published supplemental handbook guidance on qualitative evidence syntheses
Wikipedia has pages on thematic analysis and on systematic review (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001847
PMCID: PMC4488322  PMID: 26126110
2.  Extraordinary exposed in early motherhood - a qualitative study exploring experiences of mothers with type 1 diabetes 
BMC Women's Health  2011;11:10.
Background
Women with type 1 diabetes face several challenges during pregnancy, childbirth and in relation to breastfeeding. It is therefore of utmost importance to consider their need for specific support, early postpartum as well as in daily life after discharge from maternity care. Few studies have investigated these aspects of healthcare. The aim of this study was to explore experiences after childbirth regarding breastfeeding, glycemic control, support and well-being in women with type 1 diabetes.
Methods
A hermeneutic reflective life world research approach was used in this qualitative study. Data was gathered through audio-recorded focus group discussions and individual interviews with 23 women with type 1 diabetes, 6-24 months after childbirth. After verbatim transcription, the text was analyzed in order to identify themes of meaning and a conclusive interpretation of the explored phenomenon.
Results
Experiences of extraordinary exposure challenged the women with type 1 diabetes in their transition to early motherhood. The exposure included a struggle with breastfeeding, although with a driving force to succeed. Everyday life was filled with uncertainty and unpredictability related to one's own unstable glycemic control and the women down-prioritized their own needs in favor of the child. A feeling of being disconnected from professional care further contributed to the experiences of extraordinary exposure.
Conclusion
In early motherhood women with type 1 diabetes have a great need for support in managing daily life postpartum, which requires contemporary approaches to overlap insufficient linkage between health care professionals in maternity and child health care, and diabetes care.
doi:10.1186/1472-6874-11-10
PMCID: PMC3079679  PMID: 21473755
3.  Why Do Women Not Use Antenatal Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries? A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Studies 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001373.
In a synthesis of 21 qualitative studies representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries, Kenneth Finlayson and Soo Downe examine the reasons why many women in low- and middle-income countries do not receive adequate antenatal care.
Background
Almost 50% of women in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) don't receive adequate antenatal care. Women's views can offer important insights into this problem. Qualitative studies exploring inadequate use of antenatal services have been undertaken in a range of countries, but the findings are not easily transferable. We aimed to inform the development of future antenatal care programmes through a synthesis of findings in all relevant qualitative studies.
Methods and Findings
Using a predetermined search strategy, we identified robust qualitative studies reporting on the views and experiences of women in LMICs who received inadequate antenatal care. We used meta-ethnographic techniques to generate themes and a line-of-argument synthesis. We derived policy-relevant hypotheses from the findings. We included 21 papers representing the views of more than 1,230 women from 15 countries. Three key themes were identified: “pregnancy as socially risky and physiologically healthy”, “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty”, and “not getting it right the first time”. The line-of-argument synthesis describes a dissonance between programme design and cultural contexts that may restrict access and discourage return visits. We hypothesize that centralised, risk-focused antenatal care programmes may be at odds with the resources, beliefs, and experiences of pregnant women who underuse antenatal services.
Conclusions
Our findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between current antenatal care provision and the social and cultural context of some women in LMICs. Antenatal care provision that is theoretically and contextually at odds with local contextual beliefs and experiences is likely to be underused, especially when attendance generates increased personal risks of lost family resources or physical danger during travel, when the promised care is not delivered because of resource constraints, and when women experience covert or overt abuse in care settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Although maternal deaths worldwide have almost halved since 1990, according to the latest figures, every day roughly 800 women and adolescent girls still die from the complications of pregnancy or childbirth: in 2010, 287,000 women died during or following pregnancy and childbirth, with almost all of these deaths (99%) occurring in low-resource settings. Most maternal deaths are avoidable, as the interventions to prevent or manage the most common complications (severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and unsafe abortion) are well known. Furthermore, many of these complications can be prevented, detected, or treated during antenatal care visits with trained health workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of four antenatal visits per pregnancy, but according to WHO figures, between 2005 and 2010 only 53% of pregnant women worldwide attended the recommended four antenatal visits; in low-income countries, this figure was a disappointing 36%. Unfortunately, despite huge international efforts to promote and provide antenatal care, there has been little improvement in these statistics over the past decade. It is therefore important to investigate the reasons for poor antenatal attendance and to seek the views of users of antenatal care. In this study, the researchers combined studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that included women's views on antenatal care in a meta-synthesis of qualitative studies (qualitative research uses techniques, such as structured interviews, to gather an in-depth understanding of human behaviour, and a meta-synthesis combines and interprets information across studies, contexts, and populations).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched several medical, sociological, and psychological databases to find appropriate qualitative studies published between January 1980 and February 2012 that explored the antenatal care experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of women from LMICs who had chosen to access antenatal care late (after 12 weeks' gestation), infrequently (less than four times), or not at all. The researchers included 21 studies (out of the 2,997 initially identified) in their synthesis, representing the views of 1,239 women from 15 countries (Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Gambia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Mozambique, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda) who were either interviewed directly or gave their opinion as part of a focus group.
The researchers identified three main themes. The first theme reflects women's views that pregnancy is a healthy state and so saw little reason to visit health professionals when they perceived no risk to their well-being—the researchers called this theme, “pregnancy as socially contingent and physiologically healthy.” The second theme relates to women's limited financial resources, so that even when antenatal care was offered free of charge, the cost of transport to get there, the loss of earnings associated with the visit, and the possibility of having to pay for medicines meant that women were unable to attend—the researchers called this theme “resource use and survival in conditions of extreme poverty.” The third theme the researchers identified related to women's views that the antenatal services were inadequate and that the benefits of attending did not outweigh any potential harms. For example, pregnant women who initially recognized the benefits of antenatal care were often disappointed by the lack of resources they found when they got there and, consequently, decided not to return. The researchers called this theme “not getting it right the first time.”
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that there may be a misalignment between the principles that underpin the provision of antenatal care and the beliefs and socio-economic contexts of pregnant women in LMICs, meaning that even high-quality antenatal care may not be used by some pregnant women unless their views and concerns are addressed. The themes identified in this meta-synthesis could provide the basis for a new approach to the design and delivery of antenatal care that takes local beliefs and values and resource availability into account. Such programs might help ensure that antenatal care meets pregnant women's expectations and treats them appropriately so that they want to regularly attend antenatal care.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373.
Wikipedia describes antenatal care (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The World Health Organization has a wealth of information relating to pregnancy, including antenatal care
The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has evidence-based guidelines on antenatal care
The White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood has a series of web pages and links relating to respectful maternity care in LMICs
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics is an international organization with connections to various maternity initiatives in LMICs
International Confederation of Midwives has details of the Millennium Development Goals relating to maternity care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001373
PMCID: PMC3551970  PMID: 23349622
4.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Background
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Conclusions
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project http://www.healthpolicyproject.com has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001295
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
5.  Consequences of Gestational Diabetes in an Urban Hospital in Viet Nam: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001272.
Jane Hirst and colleagues determined the prevalence and outcome of gestational diabetes mellitus in urban Vietnam and found that choice of criteria greatly affected prevalence, and has implications for the ability of the health system to cope with the number of cases.
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is increasing and is a risk for type 2 diabetes. Evidence supporting screening comes mostly from high-income countries. We aimed to determine prevalence and outcomes in urban Viet Nam. We compared the proposed International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) criterion, requiring one positive value on the 75-g glucose tolerance test, to the 2010 American Diabetes Association (ADA) criterion, requiring two positive values.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a prospective cohort study in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam. Study participants were 2,772 women undergoing routine prenatal care who underwent a 75-g glucose tolerance test and interview around 28 (range 24–32) wk. GDM diagnosed by the ADA criterion was treated by local protocol. Women with GDM by the IADPSG criterion but not the ADA criterion were termed “borderline” and received standard care. 2,702 women (97.5% of cohort) were followed until discharge after delivery. GDM was diagnosed in 164 participants (6.1%) by the ADA criterion, 550 (20.3%) by the IADPSG criterion. Mean body mass index was 20.45 kg/m2 in women with out GDM, 21.10 in women with borderline GDM, and 21.81 in women with GDM, p<0.001. Women with GDM and borderline GDM were more likely to deliver preterm, with adjusted odds ratios (aORs) of 1.49 (95% CI 1.16–1.91) and 1.52 (1.03–2.24), respectively. They were more likely to have clinical neonatal hypoglycaemia, aORs of 4.94 (3.41–7.14) and 3.34 (1.41–7.89), respectively. For large for gestational age, the aORs were 1.16 (0.93–1.45) and 1.31 (0.96–1.79), respectively. There was no significant difference in large for gestational age, death, severe birth trauma, or maternal morbidity between the groups. Women with GDM underwent more labour inductions, aOR 1.51 (1.08–2.11).
Conclusions
Choice of criterion greatly affects GDM prevalence in Viet Nam. Women with GDM by the IADPSG criterion were at risk of preterm delivery and neonatal hypoglycaemia, although this criterion resulted in 20% of pregnant women being positive for GDM. The ability to cope with such a large number of cases and prevent associated adverse outcomes needs to be demonstrated before recommending widespread screening.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Like other types of diabetes, it is characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Blood-sugar levels are usually controlled by insulin, which is made by the pancreas. Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the baby's growth demands increase a pregnant woman's insulin needs, and if her pancreas cannot make enough insulin, GDM develops, usually in mid-pregnancy. Risk factors for GDM include a high body mass index (a measure of body fat), excessive weight gain or lack of physical activity during pregnancy, and glucose intolerance (an indicator of diabetes that is measured using the “oral glucose tolerance test”). GDM increases the risk of premature delivery, induced delivery, and having a large-for-gestational-age baby (gestation is the time during which the baby develops within the mother). It also increases the baby's risk of having low blood sugar (neonatal hypoglycemia). GDM, which can often be controlled by exercise and diet, usually disappears after pregnancy but increases the risk of diabetes developing later in both mother and baby.
Why Was This Study Done?
The prevalence (occurrence) of diabetes is increasing rapidly, particularly in low/middleincome countries as they become more affluent. Because GDM increases the subsequent risk of diabetes, some experts believe that screening for GDM should be included in prenatal care as part of diabetes preventative strategies. However, most of the evidence supporting GDM screening comes from high-income countries, so in this prospective cohort study (a study that analyses associations between the baseline characteristics of a group of patients and outcomes), the researchers investigate the prevalence of GDM (diagnosed using the oral glucose tolerance test) and the consequences of GDM among women attending an urban hospital in Viet Nam, a low/middle-income country. An oral glucose tolerance test measures a patient's blood-sugar level after an overnight fast, and one and two hours after consuming a sugary drink. The International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines state, respectively, that one and two of these blood-sugar measurements must be abnormally high for a diagnosis of GDM. In this study, the researchers use both guidelines to diagnose GDM.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly 3,000 women who attended the hospital for routine prenatal care had a glucose tolerance test at around 28 weeks' gestation and were followed until discharge after delivery. Women who had GDM diagnosed by the ADA criterion were referred for dietary advice and glucose monitoring. Those diagnosed by the IADPSG criterion only were described as having “borderline” GDM and received standard prenatal care. GDM was diagnosed in 6.1% and 20.3% of the women using the ADA and IADPSG criteria, respectively. After allowing for other factors that might have affected outcomes, compared to women without GDM, women with GDM or borderline GDM were more likely to deliver prematurely, and their babies were more likely to have neonatal hypoglycemia. Also, women with GDM (but not borderline GDM) were more likely to have their labor induced than women without GDM.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that the criterion used to diagnose GDM markedly affected the prevalence of GDM among pregnant women attending this Vietnamese hospital—the use of the IADPSG criterion more than tripled the prevalence of GDM and meant that a fifth of the study participants were diagnosed as having GDM. Importantly, the findings also show that GDM diagnosed using the IADPSG criterion was associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery and neonatal hypoglycemia. Although these findings may not be generalizable to other settings within Viet Nam or to other countries, they highlight the need to demonstrate that sufficient resources are available to cope with an increased GDM burden before recommending widespread screening using the IADPSG criterion. Moreover, because the long-term significance of GDM diagnosed using the IADPSG criterion is not known, all the potential benefits and harms and the costs of screening and treating GDM in low-income settings need to be further investigated before any recommendation for “universal” GDM screening is made.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10. 1371/journal.pmed.1001272.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information for patients on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides information for patients about diabetes and about gestational diabetes, including links to other useful resources
The American Diabetes Association also provides detailed information for patients and professionals about all aspects of diabetes, including gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
The International Association of the Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) 2010 recommendations on the diagnosis and classification of gestational diabetes are available
The charity Diabetes UK provides detailed information for patients and carers, including information on gestational diabetes; its blog includes a personal story about gestational diabetes, and its website includes a selection of other stories from people with diabetes; the charity Healthtalkonline also has an interview describing a personal experience of gestational diabetes
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources on diabetes and on gestational diabetes (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001272
PMCID: PMC3404117  PMID: 22911157
6.  Impact of Antiretroviral Therapy on Incidence of Pregnancy among HIV-Infected Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000229.
A multicountry cohort study in sub-Saharan Africa by Landon Myer and colleagues reveals higher pregnancy rates in HIV-infected women on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Background
With the rapid expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART) services in sub-Saharan Africa there is growing recognition of the importance of fertility and childbearing among HIV-infected women. However there are few data on whether ART initiation influences pregnancy rates.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed data from the Mother-to-Child Transmission-Plus (MTCT-Plus) Initiative, a multicountry HIV care and treatment program for women, children, and families. From 11 programs in seven African countries, women were enrolled into care regardless of HIV disease stage and followed at regular intervals; ART was initiated according to national guidelines on the basis of immunological and/or clinical criteria. Standardized forms were used to collect sociodemographic and clinical data, including incident pregnancies. Overall 589 incident pregnancies were observed among the 4,531 women included in this analysis (pregnancy incidence, 7.8/100 person-years [PY]). The rate of new pregnancies was significantly higher among women receiving ART (9.0/100 PY) compared to women not on ART (6.5/100 PY) (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.74; 95% confidence interval, 1.19–2.54). Other factors independently associated with increased risk of incident pregnancy included younger age, lower educational attainment, being married or cohabiting, having a male partner enrolled into the program, failure to use nonbarrier contraception, and higher CD4 cell counts.
Conclusions
ART use is associated with significantly higher pregnancy rates among HIV-infected women in sub-Saharan Africa. While the possible behavioral or biomedical mechanisms that may underlie this association require further investigation, these data highlight the importance of pregnancy planning and management as a critical but neglected component of HIV care and treatment services.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is a major global cause of disease and death. More than 33 million people around the world are infected with HIV, with nearly 5,500 dying daily from HIV and AIDS-related complications. HIV/AIDS is especially problematic in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is the leading cause of death. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medicines known as “antiretroviral therapy” (ART) can prolong life and reduce complications in patients infected with HIV. 97% of patients with HIV/AIDS live in low- and middle-income countries. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10 million of these patients need ART. As patients' access to treatment is often hindered by the high cost and low availability of ART, global health efforts have focused on promoting ART use in resource-limited nations. Such efforts also increase awareness of how HIV is spread (contact with blood or semen, in sexual intercourse, sharing needles, or from mother to child during childbirth). ART reduces, but does not remove, the chance of a mother's passing HIV to her child during birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
By the end of 2007, 3 million HIV-infected patients in poor countries were receiving ART. Many of those treated with ART are young women of child-bearing age. Childbirth is an important means of spreading HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, where 60% of all HIV patients are women. This study questions whether the improved health and life expectancy that results from treatment with ART affects pregnancy rates of HIV-infected patients. The study explores this question in seven African countries, by examining the rates of pregnancy in HIV-infected women before and after they started ART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors looked at the records of 4,531 HIV-infected women enrolled in the Mother-to-Child-Transmission-Plus (MTCT-Plus) Initiative in seven African countries. MTCT -Plus, begun in 2002, is a family-centered treatment program that offers regular checkups, blood tests, counseling, and ART treatment (if appropriate) to women and their families. At each checkup, women's CD4+ cell counts and World Health Organization guidelines were used to determine their eligibility for starting ART. Over a 4-year period, nearly a third of the women starting ART experienced a pregnancy: 244 pregnancies occurred in the “pre-ART” group (women not receiving ART) compared to 345 pregnancies in the “on-ART” group (women receiving ART). The chance of pregnancy increased over time in the on-ART group to almost 80% greater than the pre-ART group, while remaining relatively low and constant in the pre-ART group. The authors noted that, as expected, other factors also increased the chances of pregnancy, including younger age, lower educational status, and use of nonbarrier contraception such as injectable hormones.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggests that starting ART is associated with higher pregnancy rates in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly doubling the chances of a woman becoming pregnant. The reasons for this link are unclear. One possible explanation is behavioral: women receiving ART may feel more motivated to have children as their health and quality of life improve. However, the study did not examine how pregnancy desires and sexual activity of women changed while on ART, and cannot discern why ART is linked to increased pregnancy. By using pregnancy data gathered from patient questionnaires rather than laboratory tests, the study is limited by the possibility of inaccurate patient reporting. Understanding how pregnancy rates vary in HIV-infected women receiving ART helps support the formation of responsive, effective HIV programs. Female HIV patients of child-bearing age, who form the majority of patients receiving ART in sub-Saharan Africa, would benefit from programs that combine starting HIV treatment with ART with education and contraception counseling and pregnancy-related care.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000229.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of articles and other sources of information about the primary care of adolescents with HIV
A UNAIDS 2008 report is available on the global AIDS epidemic
The International Planned Parenthood Foundation provides information on sexual and reproductive health and HIV
The International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public health provides information to assist HIV care and treatment programs in resource-limited settings
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000229
PMCID: PMC2817715  PMID: 20161723
7.  The Effectiveness of Emergency Obstetric Referral Interventions in Developing Country Settings: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001264.
In a systematic review of the literature, Julia Hussein and colleagues seek to determine the effect of referral interventions that enable emergency access to health facilities for pregnant women living in developing countries.
Background
Pregnancy complications can be unpredictable and many women in developing countries cannot access health facilities where life-saving care is available. This study assesses the effects of referral interventions that enable pregnant women to reach health facilities during an emergency, after the decision to seek care is made.
Methods and findings
Selected bibliographic databases were searched with no date or language restrictions. Randomised controlled trials and quasi experimental study designs with a comparison group were included. Outcomes of interest included maternal and neonatal mortality and other intermediate measures such as service utilisation. Two reviewers independently selected, appraised, and extracted articles using predefined fields. Forest plots, tables, and qualitative summaries of study quality, size, and direction of effect were used for analysis.
Nineteen studies were included. In South Asian settings, four studies of organisational interventions in communities that generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths, with the largest effect seen in India (odds ratio 0·48 95% CI 0·34–0·68). Three quasi experimental studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported reductions in stillbirths with maternity waiting home interventions, with one statistically significant result (OR 0.56 95% CI 0.32–0.96). Effects of interventions on maternal mortality were unclear. Referral interventions usually improved utilisation of health services but the opposite effect was also documented. The effects of multiple interventions in the studies could not be disentangled. Explanatory mechanisms through which the interventions worked could not be ascertained.
Conclusions
Community mobilisation interventions may reduce neonatal mortality but the contribution of referral components cannot be ascertained. The reduction in stillbirth rates resulting from maternity waiting homes needs further study. Referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. To inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, improved monitoring and evaluation practices are necessary, along with studies that develop better understanding of how interventions work.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all of these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 and a woman's life-time risk of dying from complications of pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 39. By contrast, the MMR in industrialized countries is 12 and women have a life-time risk of maternal death of 1 in 4,700. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, all of which are preventable or treatable conditions. Unfortunately, it is hard to predict which women will develop pregnancy complications, many complications rapidly become life-threatening and, in developing countries, women often deliver at home, far from emergency obstetric services; obstetrics deals with the care of women and their children during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period.
Why Was This Study Done?
It should be possible to reduce maternal deaths (and the deaths of babies during pregnancy, childbirth, and early life) in developing countries by ensuring that pregnant women are referred to emergency obstetric services quickly when the need arises. Unfortunately, in such countries referral to emergency obstetric care is beset with problems such as difficult geographical terrain, transport costs, lack of vehicles, and suboptimal location and distribution of health care facilities. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of interventions designed to reduce the “phase II delay” in referral to emergency obstetric care in developing countries—the time it takes a woman to reach an appropriate health care facility once a problem has been recognized and the decision has been taken to seek care. Delays in diagnosis and the decision to seek care are phase I delays in referral, whereas delays in receiving care once a women reaches a health care facility are phase III delays.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 19 published studies that described 14 interventions designed to overcome phase II delays in emergency obstetric referral and that met their criteria for inclusion in their systematic review. About half of the interventions were organizational. That is, they were designed to overcome barriers to referral such as costs. Most of the remaining interventions were structural. That is, they involved the provision of, for example, ambulances and maternity waiting homes—placed close to a health care facility where women can stay during late pregnancy. Although seven studies provided data on maternal mortality, none showed a sustained, statistically significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in maternal deaths. Four studies in South Asia in which communities generated funds for transport reduced neonatal deaths (deaths of babies soon after birth), but the only statistically significant effect of this community mobilization intervention was seen in India where neonatal deaths were halved. Three studies from sub-Saharan Africa reported that the introduction of maternity waiting homes reduced stillbirths but this reduction was only significant in one study. Finally, although referral interventions generally improved the utilization of health services, in one study the provision of bicycle ambulances to take women to the hospital reduced the proportion of women delivering in health facilities, probably because women felt that bicycle ambulances drew unwanted attention to them during labor and so preferred to stay at home.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that community mobilization interventions may reduce neonatal mortality and that maternity waiting rooms may reduce stillbirths. Importantly, they also highlight how referral interventions can have unexpected adverse effects. However, because the studies included in this systematic review included multiple interventions designed to reduce delays at several stages of the referral process, it is not possible to disentangle the contribution of each component of the intervention. Moreover, it is impossible at present to determine why (or even if) any of the interventions reduced maternal mortality. Thus, the researchers conclude, improved monitoring of interventions and better evaluation of outcomes is essential to inform the implementation of effective referral interventions, and more studies are needed to improve understanding of how referral interventions work.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF./UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about loss in childbirth; the non-governmental health development organization AMREF provides personal stories about maternal health in Africa
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001264
PMCID: PMC3393680  PMID: 22807658
8.  Maternal Clinical Diagnoses and Hospital Variation in the Risk of Cesarean Delivery: Analyses of a National US Hospital Discharge Database 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001745.
Katy Kozhimannil and colleagues use a national database to examine the extent to which variability in cesarean section rates across the US from 2009–2010 was attributable to individual women's clinical diagnoses.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Cesarean delivery is the most common inpatient surgery in the United States, where 1.3 million cesarean sections occur annually, and rates vary widely by hospital. Identifying sources of variation in cesarean use is crucial to improving the consistency and quality of obstetric care. We used hospital discharge records to examine the extent to which variability in the likelihood of cesarean section across US hospitals was attributable to individual women's clinical diagnoses.
Methods and Findings
Using data from the 2009 and 2010 Nationwide Inpatient Sample from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project—a 20% sample of US hospitals—we analyzed data for 1,475,457 births in 1,373 hospitals. We fitted multilevel logistic regression models (patients nested in hospitals). The outcome was cesarean (versus vaginal) delivery. Covariates included diagnosis of diabetes in pregnancy, hypertension in pregnancy, hemorrhage during pregnancy or placental complications, fetal distress, and fetal disproportion or obstructed labor; maternal age, race/ethnicity, and insurance status; and hospital size and location/teaching status.
The cesarean section prevalence was 22.0% (95% confidence interval 22.0% to 22.1%) among women with no prior cesareans. In unadjusted models, the between-hospital variation in the individual risk of primary cesarean section was 0.14 (95% credible interval 0.12 to 0.15). The difference in the probability of having a cesarean delivery between hospitals was 25 percentage points. Hospital variability did not decrease after adjusting for patient diagnoses, socio-demographics, and hospital characteristics (0.16 [95% credible interval 0.14 to 0.18]). A limitation is that these data, while nationally representative, did not contain information on parity or gestational age.
Conclusions
Variability across hospitals in the individual risk of cesarean section is not decreased by accounting for differences in maternal diagnoses. These findings highlight the need for more comprehensive or linked data including parity and gestational age as well as examination of other factors—such as hospital policies, practices, and culture—in determining cesarean section use.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In an ideal world, all babies would be delivered safely and naturally through their mother's vagina. However, increasing numbers of babies are being delivered by cesarean section, a surgical operation in which the baby is delivered through a cut made in the mother's abdomen and womb. In the US, a third of all babies (about 1.3 million babies in 2011) are delivered this way. A cesarean section is usually performed when a vaginal birth would endanger the life of the mother or her unborn child because, for example, the baby is in the wrong position or the labor is not progressing normally. Some cesarean sections are performed as emergency procedures, but others are planned in advance when the need for the operation becomes clear during pregnancy. Although cesarean sections can save lives, women who deliver this way have higher rates of infection, pain, and complications in future pregnancies than women who deliver vaginally, and their babies can have breathing problems.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, cesarean section rates vary widely from country to country and from hospital to hospital within countries. Careful assessment of the risks and benefits of cesarean delivery in individual patients can help to ensure that cesarean sections are used only when necessary, but changes to clinical and policy guidelines are also needed to ensure that cesarean delivery is neither overused nor underused. To guide these changes, we need to know whether cesarean section rates vary among hospitals because of case-mix differences (some hospitals may have high rates because they admit many women with complicated pregnancies, for example) or because of differences in modifiable nonclinical factors such as hospital policies and practices. In this retrospective multilevel analysis, the researchers examine whether the current wide variation in cesarean section rates across US hospitals is attributable to differences in maternal clinical diagnoses and patient characteristics or to hospital-level differences in the use of cesarean delivery.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, the researchers used hospital discharge data on nearly 1.5 million births in 1,373 hospitals collected by the 2009 and 2010 US Nationwide Inpatient Sample database, which captures administrative data (for example, length of stay in hospital and clinical complications) from a representative sample of 20% of US hospitals. To assess the chances of cesarean delivery based on hospital and patient characteristics, researchers fitted these data to multilevel logistic regression statistical models. Among women with no prior cesarean deliveries, the (primary) cesarean section rate was 22%, whereas among the whole study population, it was 33% (women who have one cesarean delivery often have a cesarean section for subsequent deliveries). In unadjusted models that compared cesarean section rates between hospitals without considering patient characteristics, the between-hospital variance for primary cesarean section rate was 0.14. Put another way, the likelihood of an individual having a first cesarean delivery varied between 11% and 36% across the hospitals considered. After adjustment for maternal clinical diagnoses, maternal age and other socio-demographic factors, and hospital characteristics such as size, the between-hospital variance for the primary cesarean section rate was 0.16.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that the between-hospital variance for primary cesarean section rate did not decrease after adjusting for maternal characteristics (and other findings presented by the researchers) suggests that differences in case mix or pregnancy complexity may not drive the wide variability in cesarean section rates across US hospitals. However, the lack of information in the US Nationwide Inpatient Sample database on parity (the number of babies a woman has had) or gestational age (the length of time the baby has spent developing inside its mother) limits the strength of this conclusion. Both parity and gestational age strongly predict a woman's risk of a cesarean delivery. Thus, unmeasured differences in the parity of women admitted to different hospitals and/or the gestational age of their babies may be driving some of the variability in cesarean section rates across US hospitals. The lack of hospital-level information on obstetric care policies in the database also means that the many possible administrative explanations for variations across hospitals cannot be assessed. These findings therefore highlight the need for more comprehensive patient data to be collected (including information on parity and gestational age) and on hospital policies, practices, and culture before the variation in cesarean section rate across US hospitals can be fully understood and the use of cesarean delivery can be optimized.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001745.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Gordon C. S. Smith
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides a fact sheet for patients on cesarean birth
The American College of Nurse-Midwives provides a fact sheet for pregnant women on preventing cesarean birth
The US-based Childbirth Connection Project of the non-profit National Partnership for Women and Families has a booklet called “What Every Woman Should Know about Cesarean Section”
The US-based non-profit Nemours Foundation provides detailed information about cesarean sections (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about delivery by cesarean section
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about cesarean section (in English and Spanish)
The UK non-profit organization Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about women's experiences of cesarean delivery
Information about the US Nationwide Inpatient Sample database is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001745
PMCID: PMC4205118  PMID: 25333943
9.  Cesarean Section and Rate of Subsequent Stillbirth, Miscarriage, and Ectopic Pregnancy: A Danish Register-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(7):e1001670.
Louise Kenny and colleagues conduct a population-based cohort study in Denmark to assess the likelihood of stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following cesarean section compared to women who gave birth by vaginal delivery.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
With cesarean section rates increasing worldwide, clarity regarding negative effects is essential. This study aimed to investigate the rate of subsequent stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following primary cesarean section, controlling for confounding by indication.
Methods and Findings
We performed a population-based cohort study using Danish national registry data linking various registers. The cohort included primiparous women with a live birth between January 1, 1982, and December 31, 2010 (n = 832,996), with follow-up until the next event (stillbirth, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy) or censoring by live birth, death, emigration, or study end. Cox regression models for all types of cesarean sections, sub-group analyses by type of cesarean, and competing risks analyses for the causes of stillbirth were performed. An increased rate of stillbirth (hazard ratio [HR] 1.14, 95% CI 1.01, 1.28) was found in women with primary cesarean section compared to spontaneous vaginal delivery, giving a theoretical absolute risk increase (ARI) of 0.03% for stillbirth, and a number needed to harm (NNH) of 3,333 women. Analyses by type of cesarean section showed similarly increased rates for emergency (HR 1.15, 95% CI 1.01, 1.31) and elective cesarean (HR 1.11, 95% CI 0.91, 1.35), although not statistically significant in the latter case. An increased rate of ectopic pregnancy was found among women with primary cesarean overall (HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.04, 1.15) and by type (emergency cesarean, HR 1.09, 95% CI 1.03, 1.15, and elective cesarean, HR 1.12, 95% CI 1.03, 1.21), yielding an ARI of 0.1% and a NNH of 1,000 women for ectopic pregnancy. No increased rate of miscarriage was found among women with primary cesarean, with maternally requested cesarean section associated with a decreased rate of miscarriage (HR 0.72, 95% CI 0.60, 0.85). Limitations include incomplete data on maternal body mass index, maternal smoking, fertility treatment, causes of stillbirth, and maternally requested cesarean section, as well as lack of data on antepartum/intrapartum stillbirth and gestational age for stillbirth and miscarriage.
Conclusions
This study found that cesarean section is associated with a small increased rate of subsequent stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy. Underlying medical conditions, however, and confounding by indication for the primary cesarean delivery account for at least part of this increased rate. These findings will assist women and health-care providers to reach more informed decisions regarding mode of delivery.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Globally, increasing numbers of babies are being delivered by cesarean section (a surgical operation in which the baby is delivered through a cut made in the mother's abdomen and womb) instead of naturally through their mother's vagina. In England in 2010, for example, nearly 25% of all babies were delivered by cesarean section (also called C-section) compared to only 2% in the 1950s; in China and some parts of South America cesarean rates are now between 40% and 50%. A cesarean section is usually performed when a vaginal birth would endanger the life of the mother or her unborn child because, for example, the baby is in the wrong position. Some cesareans are performed as emergency procedures, but others are planned in advance when the need for the operation becomes clear during pregnancy (an elective cesarean). Some planned cesarean sections are also undertaken because the mother has requested a cesarean delivery in the absence of any medical reasons for such a delivery.
Why Was This Study Done?
Cesarean sections save lives but do they have any negative impacts on the outcome of subsequent pregnancies? With so many cesarean sections being undertaken, it is important to be sure that the procedure does not increase the rates of subsequent miscarriage, stillbirth, or ectopic pregnancy. Miscarriage—the loss of a fetus (developing baby) that is unable to survive independently—is the commonest complication of early pregnancy, affecting about one in five women who know they are pregnant. Stillbirth is fetal death after about 20–24 weeks of pregnancy; the exact definition of stillbirth varies between countries. About four million stillbirths occur each year worldwide. Ectopic pregnancy—development of the fetus outside the womb—occurs in 1%–2% of all pregnancies. In this population-based cohort study, the researchers investigate the rates of subsequent stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following a cesarean section among women living in Denmark. A population-based cohort study determines the baseline characteristics of the individuals in a population, and then follows the population over time to see whether specific characteristics are associated with specific outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained data for 832,996 women from Danish national registers about their first live birth (including whether they had a cesarean) then followed the women (again using the registers) until they had a stillbirth, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy, or a second live birth. The researchers used these data and statistical models to estimate the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy following a cesarean compared to a spontaneous vaginal delivery after controlling for the possibility that the cesarean was performed because of an indication that might increase the risk of a subsequent event (confounding). Women who had had a cesarean had a 14% increased risk of a stillbirth in their next pregnancy compared to women who had had a vaginal delivery, corresponding to an absolute risk increase of 0.03%. In other words, 3,333 women would need to have a cesarean to result in one extra stillbirth in subsequent pregnancy (a “number needed to harm” of 3,333). Compared to vaginal delivery, having a cesarean increased the risk of a subsequent ectopic pregnancy by 9% (an absolute risk increase of 0.1% and a number needed to harm of 1,000) but did not increase the rate of subsequent miscarriages.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, among women living in Denmark, cesarean section is associated with a slightly increased rate of subsequent stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy. Part of this increase can be accounted for by underlying medical conditions and by confounding by the indication for the primary cesarean section. The accuracy of these findings may be affected by limitations in the study such as incomplete data on some factors (for example, the smoking history of the mother) that might have affected the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy, and by misclassification or underreporting of the study outcomes. Given the global increase in cesarean rates, these findings suggest that cesarean delivery is not associated with an increased rate of subsequent stillbirth, miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy, an important finding for both expectant mothers and health-care professionals that nonetheless needs to be confirmed in further large-scale studies. Finally, these findings highlight the need for women to consider all their options thoroughly before requesting a cesarean section on non-medical grounds.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001670.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides patient fact sheets on cesarean birth, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy
The US-based non-profit Nemours Foundation provides information about cesarean sections, miscarriage and stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information for patients about cesarean section, miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about cesarean section, miscarriage, stillbirth, and ectopic pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The UK non-profit organization Healthtalkonline provides personal stories about cesarean delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001670
PMCID: PMC4077571  PMID: 24983970
10.  Associations between Intimate Partner Violence and Termination of Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(1):e1001581.
Lucy Chappell and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta analysis to investigate a possible association between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (IPV) and termination of pregnancy (TOP) are global health concerns, but their interaction is undetermined. The aim of this study was to determine whether there is an association between IPV and TOP.
Methods and Findings
A systematic review based on a search of Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Ovid Maternity and Infant Care from each database's inception to 21 September 2013 for peer-reviewed articles of any design and language found 74 studies regarding women who had undergone TOP and had experienced at least one domain (physical, sexual, or emotional) of IPV. Prevalence of IPV and association between IPV and TOP were meta-analysed. Sample sizes ranged from eight to 33,385 participants. Worldwide, rates of IPV in the preceding year in women undergoing TOP ranged from 2.5% to 30%. Lifetime prevalence by meta-analysis was shown to be 24.9% (95% CI 19.9% to 30.6%); heterogeneity was high (I2>90%), and variation was not explained by study design, quality, or size, or country gross national income per capita. IPV, including history of rape, sexual assault, contraceptive sabotage, and coerced decision-making, was associated with TOP, and with repeat TOPs. By meta-analysis, partner not knowing about the TOP was shown to be significantly associated with IPV (pooled odds ratio 2.97, 95% CI 2.39 to 3.69). Women in violent relationships were more likely to have concealed the TOP from their partner than those who were not. Demographic factors including age, ethnicity, education, marital status, income, employment, and drug and alcohol use showed no strong or consistent mediating effect. Few long-term outcomes were studied. Women welcomed the opportunity to disclose IPV and be offered help. Limitations include study heterogeneity, potential underreporting of both IPV and TOP in primary data sources, and inherent difficulties in validation.
Conclusions
IPV is associated with TOP. Novel public health approaches are required to prevent IPV. TOP services provide an opportune health-based setting to design and test interventions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Intimate partner violence (sometimes referred to as domestic violence) is one of the commonest forms of violence against women and is a global health problem. The World Health Organization defines intimate partner violence as any act of physical, psychological, or sexual aggression or any controlling behavior (for example, restriction of access to assistance) perpetrated by the woman's current or past intimate partner. Although men also experience it, intimate partner violence is overwhelmingly experienced by women, particularly when repeated or severe. Studies indicate that the prevalence (the percentage of a population affected by a condition) of intimate partner violence varies widely within and between countries: the prevalence of intimate partner violence among women ranges from 15% in Japan to 71% in Ethiopia, and the lifetime prevalence of rape (forced sex) within intimate relationships ranges from 5.9% to 42% across the world, for example. Overall, a third of women experience intimate partner violence at some time during their lifetimes. The health consequences of such violence include physical injury, depression, suicidal behavior, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Why Was This Study Done?
Intimate partner violence can also lead to gynecological disorders (conditions affecting the female reproductive organs), unwanted pregnancy, premature labour and birth, and sexually transmitted infections. Because violence may begin or intensify during pregnancy, some countries recommend routine questioning about intimate partner violence during antenatal care. However, women seeking termination of pregnancy (induced abortion) are not routinely asked about intimate partner violence. Every year, many women worldwide terminate a pregnancy. Nearly half of these terminations are unsafe, and complications arising from unsafe abortions are responsible for more than 10% of maternal deaths (deaths from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications). It is important to know whether intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy are associated in order to develop effective strategies to deal with both these global health concerns. Here, the researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the associations between intimate partner violence and termination or pregnancy. A systematic review identifies all the research on a given topic using predefined criteria; meta-analysis combines the results of several studies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 74 studies that provided information about experiences of intimate partner violence among women who had had a termination of pregnancy. Data in these studies indicated that, worldwide, intimate partner violence rates among women undergoing termination ranged from 2.5% to 30% in the preceding year and from 14% to 40% over their lifetime. In the meta-analysis, the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence was 24.9% among termination-seeking populations. The identified studies provided evidence that intimate partner violence was associated with termination and with repeat termination. In one study, for example, women presenting for a third termination were more than two and a half times more likely to have a history of physical or sexual violence than women presenting for their first termination. Moreover, according to the meta-analysis, women in violent relationships were three times as likely to conceal a termination from their partner as women in non-violent relationships. Finally, the studies indicated that women undergoing terminations of pregnancy welcomed the opportunity to disclose their experiences of intimate partner violence and to be offered help.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that intimate partner violence is associated with termination of pregnancy and that a woman's partner not knowing about the termination is a risk factor for intimate partner violence among women seeking termination. Overall, the researchers' findings support the concept that violence can lead to pregnancy and to subsequent termination of pregnancy, and that there may be a repetitive cycle of abuse and pregnancy. The accuracy of these findings is limited by heterogeneity (variability) among the included studies, by the likelihood of underreporting of both intimate partner violence and termination in the included studies, and by lack of validation of reports of violence through, for example, police reports. Nevertheless, health-care professionals should consider the possibility that women seeking termination of pregnancy may be experiencing intimate partner violence. In trying to prevent repeat terminations, health-care professionals should be aware that while focusing on preventing conception may reduce the chances of a woman becoming pregnant, she may still be vulnerable to abuse. Finally, given the clear associations between intimate partner violence and termination of pregnancy, the researchers suggest that termination services represent an appropriate setting in which to test interventions designed to reduce intimate partner violence.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581.
The World Health organization provides detailed information about intimate partner violence and about termination of pregnancy (some information available in several languages)
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about intimate partner violence and about termination of pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
The World Bank has a webpage that discusses the role of the health sector in preventing gender-based violence and a webpage with links to other resources about gender-based violence
The Gender and Health Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council provides links to further resources about intimate partner violence (research briefs/policy briefs/fact sheets/research reports)
DIVERHSE (Domestic & Interpersonal Violence: Effecting Responses in the Health Sector in Europe) is a European forum for health professionals, nongovernmental organizations, policy-makers, and academics to share their expertise and good practice in developing and evaluating interventions to address violence against women and children in a variety of health-care settings
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Gender Violence and Health Centre also has a number of research resources
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides personal stories of intimate partner violence during pregnancy
The March of Dimes provides information on identifying intimate partner violence during pregnancy and making a safety plan
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001581
PMCID: PMC3883805  PMID: 24409101
11.  Effectiveness of a Home-Based Counselling Strategy on Neonatal Care and Survival: A Cluster-Randomised Trial in Six Districts of Rural Southern Tanzania 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(9):e1001881.
Background
We report a cluster-randomised trial of a home-based counselling strategy, designed for large-scale implementation, in a population of 1.2 million people in rural southern Tanzania. We hypothesised that the strategy would improve neonatal survival by around 15%.
Methods and Findings
In 2010 we trained 824 female volunteers to make three home visits to women and their families during pregnancy and two visits to them in the first few days of the infant’s life in 65 wards, selected randomly from all 132 wards in six districts in Mtwara and Lindi regions, constituting typical rural areas in Southern Tanzania. The remaining wards were comparison areas. Participants were not blinded to the intervention. The primary analysis was an intention-to-treat analysis comparing the neonatal mortality (day 0–27) per 1,000 live births in intervention and comparison wards based on a representative survey in 185,000 households in 2013 with a response rate of 90%. We included 24,381 and 23,307 live births between July 2010 and June 2013 and 7,823 and 7,555 live births in the last year in intervention and comparison wards, respectively. We also compared changes in neonatal mortality and newborn care practices in intervention and comparison wards using baseline census data from 2007 including 225,000 households and 22,243 births in five of the six intervention districts. Amongst the 7,823 women with a live birth in the year prior to survey in intervention wards, 59% and 41% received at least one volunteer visit during pregnancy and postpartum, respectively. Neonatal mortality reduced from 35.0 to 30.5 deaths per 1,000 live births between 2007 and 2013 in the five districts, respectively. There was no evidence of an impact of the intervention on neonatal survival (odds ratio [OR] 1.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.9–1.2, p = 0.339). Newborn care practices reported by mothers were better in intervention than in comparison wards, including immediate breastfeeding (42% of 7,287 versus 35% of 7,008, OR 1.4, CI 1.3–1.6, p < 0.001), feeding only breast milk for the first 3 d (90% of 7,557 versus 79% of 7,307, OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.8–2.7, p < 0.001), and clean hands for home delivery (92% of 1,351 versus 88% of 1,799, OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.0–2.3, p = 0.033). Facility delivery improved dramatically in both groups from 41% of 22,243 in 2007 and was 82% of 7,820 versus 75% of 7,553 (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–2.0, p = 0.002) in intervention and comparison wards in 2013. Methodological limitations include our inability to rule out some degree of leakage of the intervention into the comparison areas and response bias for newborn care behaviours.
Conclusion
Neonatal mortality remained high despite better care practices and childbirth in facilities becoming common. Public health action to improve neonatal survival in this setting should include a focus on improving the quality of facility-based childbirth care.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01022788
Editors' Summary
Background
In 1990, 12 million children—most of them living in resource-limited countries—died before their fifth birthday. Faced with this largely avoidable loss of young lives, in 2000, world leaders set a target of reducing under-five mortality (deaths) to one-third of its 1990 level by 2015 as Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4); this goal, together with seven others, aims to eradicate extreme poverty globally. Progress towards reducing under-five mortality has been good. However, MDG4 has not been met because of slow progress in reducing neonatal mortality—death during the first 28 days of life. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, mortality during the first five years of life fell by 47% between 1990 and 2012, whereas neonatal mortality fell by only 28%. Consequently, neonatal deaths now account for a greater proportion of global child deaths than in 1990, and every year there are still 3 million neonatal deaths.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts estimate that advising mothers during pregnancy and in the days following delivery (the early postpartum period) about good delivery and newborn care practices could prevent a quarter of neonatal deaths. WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) therefore recommend that all mothers in areas with high neonatal mortality should receive two home visits during the early postpartum period to assess the newborn’s health and to counsel mothers on newborn care practices. In this cluster randomized trial, the researchers investigate the effect on neonatal care and survival in rural southern Tanzania, a low-resource setting, of a volunteer-led home-based counseling strategy that meets these recommendations. The neonatal mortality rate (NMR) has declined markedly in recent years in Tanzania but varies widely across the country. A cluster randomized trial randomly assigns groups of people (here, women living in different “wards” consisting of three or four villages) to receive alternative interventions and compares outcomes in the differently treated “clusters.”
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers estimated baseline neonatal mortality in five rural districts in southern Tanzania (35 deaths per 1,000 live births) from a 2007 census. In early 2010, they trained 824 female volunteers to deliver key counseling messages (including messages about handwashing with soap before delivery and early and exclusive breast feeding) and supporting messages such as the importance of childbirth in a health care facility. The volunteers were asked to make three home visits during pregnancy and two home visits shortly after delivery to women living in 65 intervention wards in six rural Tanzanian districts (a district not included in the baseline census was included in the trial); 67 comparison wards did not receive the intervention. A 2013 survey of households indicated that, in the intervention wards, 59% of women received at least one volunteer visit during pregnancy and 41% received at least one visit postpartum. Neonatal mortality reduced from 35 to 31 and 30 deaths per 1,000 live births in the intervention and comparison wards, respectively, in the five districts with baseline data. Newborn care practices reported by mothers were better in the intervention wards than in the comparison wards. For example, 42% and 35% of the women in the intervention and comparison wards, respectively, reported immediate breast feeding. Finally, childbirth in a health care facility increased from 41% in 2007 to 82% and 75% in 2013 in the intervention and comparison wards, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide no evidence for an effect on neonatal survival of the home-based counseling strategy tested here even though the intervention improved newborn care practices. Notably, although many of the women in the intervention wards received antenatal visits from the trained volunteers, fewer women received early postpartum visits, a finding that could be partly responsible for the lack of effectiveness of the intervention. The accuracy of these findings may be limited by certain aspects of the trial design. For example, some of the women in the comparison areas may have inadvertently received part of the intervention (“leakage”). In addition, newborn care practises improved much in both, intervention and comparison areas, included a doubling of facility delivery. Nevertheless, the lack of an effect of the intervention on neonatal mortality despite a moderate effect on newborn care behaviours throws some doubt on the existing evidence base in support of home-based counselling as an intervention to reduce neonatal mortality. Finally, the finding that childbirth in a health care facility increased during the study period without a concomitant reduction in neonatal mortality highlights the need to improve the quality of facility-based childbirth care in rural southern Tanzania and, possibly, in other resource-limited settings.
Additional Information
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001881.
WHO provides information on global efforts to reduce child mortality and on ending preventable neonatal deaths (available in several languages); its 2009 recommendations, "Home Visits for the Newborn Child. A Strategy to Improve Survival," are available
UNICEF works for children’s rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information about MDG4 and about child health in Tanzania; its website provides detailed statistics about child health; its Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed—Progress Report 2014 addresses neonatal mortality
The Millennium Development Goals 2015 Report is available
The Healthy Newborn Network is an online community of more than 80 partner organizations that addresses critical knowledge gaps in newborn health
More information about the trial described here is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001881
PMCID: PMC4587813  PMID: 26418813
12.  Women's Access and Provider Practices for the Case Management of Malaria during Pregnancy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001688.
Jenny Hill and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of women’s access and healthcare provider adherence to WHO case-management policy of malaria during pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
WHO recommends prompt diagnosis and quinine plus clindamycin for treatment of uncomplicated malaria in the first trimester and artemisinin-based combination therapies in subsequent trimesters. We undertook a systematic review of women's access to and healthcare provider adherence to WHO case management policy for malaria in pregnant women.
Methods and Findings
We searched the Malaria in Pregnancy Library, the Global Health Database, and the International Network for the Rational Use of Drugs Bibliography from 1 January 2006 to 3 April 2014, without language restriction. Data were appraised for quality and content. Frequencies of women's and healthcare providers' practices were explored using narrative synthesis and random effect meta-analysis. Barriers to women's access and providers' adherence to policy were explored by content analysis using NVivo. Determinants of women's access and providers' case management practices were extracted and compared across studies. We did not perform a meta-ethnography. Thirty-seven studies were included, conducted in Africa (30), Asia (4), Yemen (1), and Brazil (2). One- to three-quarters of women reported malaria episodes during pregnancy, of whom treatment was sought by >85%. Barriers to access among women included poor knowledge of drug safety, prohibitive costs, and self-treatment practices, used by 5%–40% of women. Determinants of women's treatment-seeking behaviour were education and previous experience of miscarriage and antenatal care. Healthcare provider reliance on clinical diagnosis and poor adherence to treatment policy, especially in first versus other trimesters (28%, 95% CI 14%–47%, versus 72%, 95% CI 39%–91%, p = 0.02), was consistently reported. Prescribing practices were driven by concerns over side effects and drug safety, patient preference, drug availability, and cost. Determinants of provider practices were access to training and facility type (public versus private). Findings were limited by the availability, quality, scope, and methodological inconsistencies of the included studies.
Conclusions
A systematic assessment of the extent of substandard case management practices of malaria in pregnancy is required, as well as quality improvement interventions that reach all providers administering antimalarial drugs in the community. Pregnant women need access to information on which anti-malarial drugs are safe to use at different stages of pregnancy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite, kills about 600,000 people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa, but pregnant women and their unborn babies are also vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause severe maternal anemia, miscarriages, and preterm births, and kills about 10,000 women and 100,000 children each year. Since 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that uncomplicated malaria (an infection that causes a fever but does not involve organ damage or severe anemia) should be treated with quinine and clindamycin if it occurs during the first trimester (first three months) of pregnancy and with an artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) if it occurs during the second or third trimester; ACTs should be used during the first trimester only if no other treatment is immediately available because their safety during early pregnancy has not been established. Since 2010, WHO has also recommended that clinical diagnosis of malaria should be confirmed before treatment by looking for parasites in patients' blood (parasitology).
Why Was This Study Done?
Prompt diagnosis and treatment of malaria in pregnancy in regions where malaria is always present (endemic regions) is extremely important, yet little is known about women's access to the recommended interventions for malaria in pregnancy or about healthcare providers' adherence to the WHO case management guidelines. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, the researchers explore the factors that affect women's access to treatment and healthcare provider practices for case management of malaria during pregnancy. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies. A qualitative study collects non-quantitative data such as reasons for refusing an intervention, whereas a qualitative study collects numerical data such as the proportion of a population receiving an intervention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 37 studies (mostly conducted in Africa) that provided data on the range of healthcare providers visited, antimalarials used, and the factors influencing the choice of healthcare provider and medicines among pregnant women seeking treatment for malaria and/or the type and quality of diagnostic and case management services offered to them by healthcare providers. The researchers explored the data in these studies using narrative synthesis (which summarizes the results from several qualitative studies) and content analysis (which identifies key themes within texts). Among the studies that provided relevant data, one-quarter to three-quarters of women reported malaria episodes during pregnancy. More than 85% of the women who reported a malaria episode during pregnancy sought some form of treatment. Barriers to access to WHO-recommended treatment among women included poor knowledge about drug safety, and the use of self-treatment practices such as taking herbal remedies. Factors that affected the treatment-seeking behavior of pregnant women (“determinants”) included prior use of antenatal care, education, and previous experience of a miscarriage. Among healthcare providers, reliance on clinical diagnosis of malaria was consistently reported, as was poor adherence to the treatment policy. Specifically, 28% and 72% of healthcare providers followed the treatment guidelines for malaria during the first and second/third trimesters of pregnancy, respectively. Finally, the researchers report that concerns over side effects and drug safety, patient preference, drug availability, and cost drove the prescribing practices of the healthcare providers, and that the determinants of provider practices included the type (cadre) of heathcare worker, access to training, and whether they were based in a public or private facility.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal important limitations in the implementation of the WHO policy on the treatment of malaria in pregnancy across many parts of Africa and in several other malaria endemic regions. Notably, they show that women do not uniformly seek care within the formal healthcare system and suggest that, when they do seek care, they may not be given the appropriate treatment because healthcare providers frequently fail to adhere to the WHO diagnostic and treatment guidelines. Although limited by the sparseness of data and by inconsistencies in study methodologies, these findings nevertheless highlight the need for further systematic assessments of the extent of substandard case management of malaria in pregnancy in malaria endemic countries, and the need to develop interventions to improve access to and delivery of quality case management of malaria among pregnant women.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001688.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on malaria in pregnancy; the 2010 Guidelines for the Treatment of Malaria are available; the World Malaria Report 2013 provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy and provides links to the consortium's publications and an online library on malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001688
PMCID: PMC4122360  PMID: 25093720
13.  Husbands' involvement in delivery care utilization in rural Bangladesh: A qualitative study 
Background
A primary cause of high maternal mortality in Bangladesh is lack of access to professional delivery care. Examining the role of the family, particularly the husband, during pregnancy and childbirth is important to understanding women's access to and utilization of professional maternal health services that can prevent maternal mortality. This qualitative study examines husbands' involvement during childbirth and professional delivery care utilization in a rural sub-district of Netrokona district, Bangladesh.
Methods
Using purposive sampling, ten households utilizing a skilled attendant during the birth of the youngest child were selected and matched with ten households utilizing an untrained traditional birth attendant, or dhatri. Households were selected based on a set of inclusion criteria, such as approximate household income, ethnicity, and distance to the nearest hospital. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted in Bangla with husbands in these households in June 2010. Interviews were transcribed, translated into English, and analyzed using NVivo 9.0.
Results
By purposefully selecting households that differed on the type of provider utilized during delivery, common themes--high costs, poor transportation, and long distances to health facilities--were eliminated as sufficient barriers to the utilization of professional delivery care. Divergent themes, namely husbands' social support and perceived social norms, were identified as underlying factors associated with delivery care utilization. We found that husbands whose wives utilized professional delivery care provided emotional, instrumental and informational support to their wives during delivery and believed that medical intervention was necessary. By contrast, husbands whose wives utilized an untrained dhatri at home were uninvolved during delivery and believed childbirth should take place at home according to local traditions.
Conclusions
This study provides novel evidence about male involvement during childbirth in rural Bangladesh. These findings have important implications for program planners, who should pursue culturally sensitive ways to involve husbands in maternal health interventions and assess the effectiveness of education strategies targeted at husbands.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-28
PMCID: PMC3364886  PMID: 22494576
14.  Community Mobilization in Mumbai Slums to Improve Perinatal Care and Outcomes: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001257.
David Osrin and colleagues report findings from a cluster-randomized trial conducted in Mumbai slums; the trial aimed to evaluate whether facilitator-supported women's groups could improve perinatal outcomes.
Introduction
Improving maternal and newborn health in low-income settings requires both health service and community action. Previous community initiatives have been predominantly rural, but India is urbanizing. While working to improve health service quality, we tested an intervention in which urban slum-dweller women's groups worked to improve local perinatal health.
Methods and Findings
A cluster randomized controlled trial in 24 intervention and 24 control settlements covered a population of 283,000. In each intervention cluster, a facilitator supported women's groups through an action learning cycle in which they discussed perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took local action. We monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths, and interviewed mothers at 6 weeks postpartum. The primary outcomes described perinatal care, maternal morbidity, and extended perinatal mortality. The analysis included 18,197 births over 3 years from 2006 to 2009. We found no differences between trial arms in uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in later pregnancy, institutional delivery, early and exclusive breastfeeding, or care-seeking. The stillbirth rate was non-significantly lower in the intervention arm (odds ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.60–1.22), and the neonatal mortality rate higher (1.48, 1.06–2.08). The extended perinatal mortality rate did not differ between arms (1.19, 0.90–1.57). We have no evidence that these differences could be explained by the intervention.
Conclusions
Facilitating urban community groups was feasible, and there was evidence of behaviour change, but we did not see population-level effects on health care or mortality. In cities with multiple sources of health care, but inequitable access to services, community mobilization should be integrated with attempts to deliver services for the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve quality of care in both public and private sectors.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN96256793
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Substantial progress is being made to reduce global child mortality (deaths of children before the age of 5 years) and maternal mortality (deaths among women because of complications of pregnancy and childbirth)—two of the Millennium Development Goals agreed by world leaders in 2000 to end extreme poverty. Even so, worldwide, in 2010, 7.6 million children died before their fifth birthday and there were nearly 360,000 maternal deaths. Almost all child and maternal deaths occur in developing countries—a fifth of under-five deaths and more than a quarter of neonatal deaths (deaths during the first month of life, which account for two-fifths of all child deaths) occur in India alone. Moreover, most child and maternal deaths are caused by avoidable conditions. Specifically, the major causes of neonatal death—complications of preterm delivery, breathing problems during or after delivery, and infections of the blood (sepsis) and lungs (pneumonia)—and of maternal deaths—hemorrhage (abnormal bleeding), sepsis, unsafe abortion, obstructed labor, and hypertensive diseases of pregnancy—could all be largely prevented by improved access to reproductive health services and skilled health care workers.
Why Was This Study Done?
Experts believe that improvements to maternal and newborn health in low-income settings require both health service strengthening and community action. That is, the demand for better services, driven by improved knowledge about maternal and newborn health (perinatal issues), has to be increased in parallel with the supply of those services. To date, community mobilization around perinatal issues has largely been undertaken in rural settings but populations in developing countries are becoming increasingly urban. In India, for example, 30% of the population now lives in cities. In this cluster randomized controlled trial (a study in which groups of people are randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions and the outcomes in the differently treated “clusters” are compared), City Initiative for Newborn Health (CINH) researchers investigate the effect of an intervention designed to help women's groups in the slums of Mumbai work towards improving local perinatal health. The CINH aims to improve maternal and newborn health in slum communities by improving public health care provision and by working with community members to improve maternal and newborn care practices and care-seeking behaviors.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 48 Mumbai slum communities of at least 1,000 households into their trial. In each of the 24 intervention clusters, a facilitator supported local women's groups through a 36-meeting learning cycle during which group members discussed their perinatal experiences, improved their knowledge, and took action. To measure the effect of the intervention, the researchers monitored births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths in all the clusters and interviewed mothers 6 weeks after delivery. During the 3-year trial, there were 18,197 births in the participating settlements. The women in the intervention clusters were enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge and made substantial efforts to reach out to other women but were less successful in undertaking collective action such as negotiations with civic authorities for more amenities. There were no differences between the intervention and control communities in the uptake of antenatal care, reported work, rest, and diet in late pregnancy, institutional delivery, or in breast feeding and care-seeking behavior. Finally, the combined rate of stillbirths and neonatal deaths (the extended perinatal mortality rate) was the same in both arms of the trial, as was maternal mortality.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that it is possible to facilitate the discussion of perinatal health care by urban women's groups in the challenging conditions that exist in the slums of Mumbai. However, they fail to show any measureable effect of community mobilization through the facilitation of women's groups on perinatal health at the population level. The researchers acknowledge that more intensive community activities that target the poorest, most vulnerable slum dwellers might produce measurable effects on perinatal mortality, and they conclude that, in cities with multiple sources of health care and inequitable access to services, it remains important to integrate community mobilization with attempts to deliver services to the poorest and most vulnerable, and with initiatives to improve the quality of health care in both the public and private sector.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) works for children's rights, survival, development, and protection around the world; it provides information on the reduction of child mortality (Millennium Development Goal 4); its Childinfo website provides information about all the Millennium Development Goals and detailed statistics about on child survival and health, newborn care, and maternal health (some information in several languages)
The World Health Organization also has information about Millennium Development Goal 4 and Millennium Development Goal 5, the reduction of maternal mortality, provides information on newborn infants, and provides estimates of child mortality rates (some information in several languages)
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals is available
Information on the City Initiative for Newborn Health and its partners and a detailed description of its trial of community mobilization in Mumbai slums to improve care during pregnancy, delivery, postnatally and for the newborn are available
Further information about the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001257
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
15.  Encountering abuse in health care; lifetime experiences in postnatal women - a qualitative study 
Background
Abuse in health care (AHC) has been associated with potential severe health consequences, and has further been related to maternal morbidity and mortality in childbirth. To improve our understanding of what qualifies as AHC and to support and optimise the health of women with these experiences, the objective of this study was to describe how women, who had previously endured AHC, gave meaning to and managed their experience during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the early postnatal period.
Method
Women, who had reported substantial suffering as a result of a previous experience of abuse within the healthcare system, were purposefully selected from a Danish sample of a multinational cohort study on negative life events among pregnant women (the BIDENS Study). Eleven women were interviewed individually by means of a semi-structured interview guide. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed by means of qualitative systematic text condensation analysis.
Results
Four categories were identified to describe the women’s experience of AHC and its consequences on pregnancy and childbirth: abusive acts of unintentional harm, dehumanization, bodily remembrance, and finding the strength to move on. Abuse in health care may have profound consequences on the reproductive lives of the women, among others affecting sexuality, the desire to have children and the expectations of mode of delivery. However, the women described constructive ways to manage the experience, to which healthcare professionals could also contribute significantly.
Conclusions
Regardless of whether AHC is experienced in childhood or adulthood, it can influence the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth. By recognising the potential existence of AHC, healthcare professionals have a unique opportunity to support women who have experienced AHC.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-74
PMCID: PMC3614521  PMID: 23521853
Abuse in health care; Pregnancy; Childbirth; Dehumanization; Empathy
16.  Internet use, needs and expectations of web-based information and communication in childbearing women with type 1 diabetes 
Background
In the childbearing period women use the internet both to seek information and as an important source of communication. For women with type 1 diabetes, pregnancy and early motherhood constitute a more complex situation than for women in general. This implies need for support from various professionals and a way of bridging any discontinuity in care would be to develop a website providing complementary social support and information. The objective of this study was to explore internet use, needs, and expectations regarding web-based information and communication in childbearing women with type 1 diabetes.
Methods
Data were collected via a web-based survey with an explorative and descriptive design, in which 105 of 139 eligible mothers with type 1 diabetes and recent childbearing experience participated. The data were analyzed with descriptive and analytical statistics, and open answers with a directed content analysis.
Results
Of the 105 women, 22% never used the internet to search for information concerning pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. 12% searched for information every day, 29% one or more times a week, and 38% one or more times a month. Of the women 44% declared themselves to be passive participants on social websites, and 45% to be active participants. 45% had specific expectations of web-based support directed towards childbearing, especially those with higher educational level (P = .01). Expectations of instrumental and informational support included an expert-controlled website with reliable, updated, and information focused on childbearing and diabetes, improved access to diabetes care professionals and alternative ways to communicate and to receive childbearing-related support. The women also asked for online technical devices to manage the frequent monitoring of blood glucose during pregnancy. Informal, emotional, and appraisal support from women in similar situations was suggested as a way to provide an arena for belonging instead of creating feelings of alienation.
Conclusions
Our results add important knowledge about the web-based needs of women with type 1 diabetes in relation to childbearing. This user directed study indicates specific areas of development for the provision of effective web-based support that includes facilities for reliable information, interactive support and social networking in this population.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-11-49
PMCID: PMC3141376  PMID: 21736713
17.  Childhood Malnutrition is Associated with Maternal Care During Pregnancy and Childbirth: A Cross-Sectional Study in Bauchi and Cross River States, Nigeria 
Background
Malnutrition remains an important cause of childhood morbidity and mortality; the levels of childhood malnutrition in Nigeria are among the highest in the world. The literature supports many direct and indirect causes of malnutrition, but few studies have examined the link between maternal care during pregnancy and childbirth and childhood malnutrition. This study examines this potential link in Bauchi and Cross River states in Nigeria.
Design and methods
In 2011, a household survey collected information about children under four years old and their mothers’ last pregnancy. Trained fieldworkers measured mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of children aged 6-47 months. We examined associations with childhood malnutrition in bivariate and multivariate analysis.
Results
Some 4.4% of 3643 children in Cross River, and 14.7% of 2706 in Bauchi were malnourished (MUAC z-score). In both states, a child whose mother had fewer than four government antenatal care visits was more likely to be malnourished (Cross River: OR 1.85, 95%CIca 1.33-2.55; Bauchi: OR 1.29, 95%CIca 1.02-1.63). In Bauchi, a child whose mother who rarely or never discussed pregnancy and childbirth with her husband (OR 1.34, 95%CIca 1.07-1.68), and who did not have her last delivery attended by a skilled health worker was more likely to be malnourished (OR 1.50, 95%CIca 1.09-2.07).
Conclusions
These findings, if confirmed in other studies, suggest that poor care of women in pregnancy and childbirth could pose a longer term risk to the health of the child, as well as increasing immediate risks for both mother and child.
Significance for public healthChildhood malnutrition is a public health priority, accounting for almost 1/5 of global disease burden among children under five years old. Many studies have examined risk factors for childhood malnutrition, but few have examined the link between maternal care during pregnancy and childbirth and childhood malnutrition. This study, albeit a cross-sectional design, provides evidence of a link between poor care during pregnancy and childbirth and childhood malnutrition in two states of Nigeria. This is important for public health because it suggests another benefit of caring for women during pregnancy and childbirth. This could not only reduce maternal and child perinatal mortality, but also have benefits for the longer-term health and development of children. This finding could be useful for paternal advocacy; it may motivate men to support their wives during pregnancy and childbirth since through this support, fathers can also protect the future development of their children.
doi:10.4081/jphr.2015.408
PMCID: PMC4407040  PMID: 25918695
childhood malnutrition; antenatal care; Nigeria
18.  Born Too Soon: Care during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce preterm deliveries and improve health outcomes of the preterm baby 
Reproductive Health  2013;10(Suppl 1):S4.
Abstract
Pregnancy and childbirth represent a critical time period when a woman can be reached through a variety of mechanisms with interventions aimed at reducing her risk of a preterm birth and improving her health and the health of her unborn baby. These mechanisms include the range of services delivered during antenatal care for all pregnant women and women at high risk of preterm birth, services provided to manage preterm labour, and workplace, professional and other supportive policies that promote safe motherhood and universal access to care before, during and after pregnancy. The aim of this paper is to present the latest information about available interventions that can be delivered during pregnancy to reduce preterm birth rates and improve the health outcomes of the premature baby, and to identify data gaps. The paper also focuses on promising avenues of research on the pregnancy period that will contribute to a better understanding of the causes of preterm birth and ability to design interventions at the policy, health care system and community levels. At minimum, countries need to ensure equitable access to comprehensive antenatal care, quality childbirth services and emergency obstetric care. Antenatal care services should include screening for and management of women at high risk of preterm birth, screening for and treatment of infections, and nutritional support and counselling. Health workers need to be trained and equipped to provide effective and timely clinical management of women in preterm labour to improve the survival chances of the preterm baby. Implementation strategies must be developed to increase the uptake by providers of proven interventions such as antenatal corticosteroids and to reduce harmful practices such as non-medically indicated inductions of labour and caesarean births before 39 weeks of gestation. Behavioural and community-based interventions that can lead to reductions in smoking and violence against women need to be implemented in conjunction with antenatal care models that promote women's empowerment as a strategy for reducing preterm delivery. The global community needs to support more discovery research on normal and abnormal pregnancies to facilitate the development of preventive interventions for universal application. As new evidence is generated, resources need to be allocated to its translation into new and better screening and diagnostic tools, and other interventions aimed at saving maternal and newborn lives that can be brought to scale in all countries.
Declaration
This article is part of a supplement jointly funded by Save the Children's Saving Newborn Lives programme through a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and March of Dimes Foundation and published in collaboration with the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and the World Health Organization (WHO). The original article was published in PDF format in the WHO Report "Born Too Soon: the global action report on preterm birth" (ISBN 978 92 4 150343 30), which involved collaboration from more than 50 organizations. The article has been reformatted for journal publication and has undergone peer review according to Reproductive Health's standard process for supplements and may feature some variations in content when compared to the original report. This co-publication makes the article available to the community in a full-text format.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-S1-S4
PMCID: PMC3842748  PMID: 24625215
19.  Exercise in obese pregnant women: positive impacts and current perceptions 
Overweight and obesity have significant implications during pregnancy and childbirth. The objective of this review was to provide a comprehensive overview of the effect of physical activity on pregnancy outcomes, the change of physical activity during pregnancy, and women’s perception of being physically active during pregnancy, with a particular focus on women who are overweight or obese. Many studies have investigated the beneficial effect of exercise during pregnancy, including reduced risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and operative birth, in addition to improved cardiovascular function, overall fitness, psychological well-being, and mood stability. Benefits for the infant include reduced risks of prematurity and improved fetal growth, although there is more limited information about longer-term health benefits for both women and infants. The existing literature examining physical activity patterns during pregnancy has generally focused on women of all body mass index categories, consistently indicating a reduction in activity over the course of pregnancy. However, the available literature evaluating physical activity during pregnancy among women who are overweight or obese is more limited and contradictory. A number of studies identified barriers preventing women from being active during pregnancy, including pregnancy symptoms, lack of time, access to child care, and concerns about their safety and that of their unborn baby. Conversely, significant enablers included positive psychological feelings, family influence, and receiving advice from health professionals. Very few studies have provided insights about perceptions of being active during pregnancy in the overweight and obese population. There is a need for a detailed description of physical activity patterns during pregnancy in women who are overweight or obese, and more randomized trials evaluating exercise interventions for women who are overweight or obese, with a focus on clinical outcomes.
doi:10.2147/IJWH.S34042
PMCID: PMC3704399  PMID: 23861603
pregnancy; exercise; physical activity; overweight; obesity
20.  Salient beliefs towards vaginal delivery in pregnant women: A qualitative study from Iran 
Reproductive Health  2016;13:7.
Background
Childbirth by cesarean section has increased at an alarming rate over the past few years in Iran. The present study was designed to explore pregnant women’s beliefs about the mode of delivery in order to provide some suggestions for future interventions to increase vaginal delivery.
Methods
This was a qualitative study framed by the Theory of Planned Behavior conducted in Tehran, Iran in 2013. Pregnant women attending public hospitals were recruited. The data were collected via in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Interviews were conducted in a semi-structured manner. All interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. A content analysis approach was used to explore the data.
Results
In all 36 pregnant women participated in the study. The mean age of women was 27.8 (SD = 4.5) years. In general, women preferred vaginal delivery. During interviews and focus group discussions several themes emerged related to the pain associated with vaginal delivery, fears of childbirth, related health concerns, and the role of decision makers. The findings were grouped into three main themes namely: behavioral beliefs (negative and positive beliefs towards outcomes of vaginal delivery), normative beliefs (injunctive norms and descriptive norms), and control beliefs (internal and external barriers).
Conclusion
Despite the fact that there were positive beliefs regarding vaginal delivery, participants indicated concerns related to loss of control and fear. It is essential that health care providers realize the psychological needs of women during pregnancy and the need for continuous support during childbirth. This type of support may improve their self-control during labor, and decrease fear of childbirth.
doi:10.1186/s12978-016-0120-5
PMCID: PMC4724137  PMID: 26801087
Cesarean section; Theory of Planned Behavior; Normal vaginal delivery
21.  Length of Stay After Childbirth in 92 Countries and Associated Factors in 30 Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Compilation of Reported Data and a Cross-sectional Analysis from Nationally Representative Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2016;13(3):e1001972.
Background
Following childbirth, women need to stay sufficiently long in health facilities to receive adequate care. Little is known about length of stay following childbirth in low- and middle-income countries or its determinants.
Methods and Findings
We described length of stay after facility delivery in 92 countries. We then created a conceptual framework of the main drivers of length of stay, and explored factors associated with length of stay in 30 countries using multivariable linear regression. Finally, we used multivariable logistic regression to examine the factors associated with stays that were “too short” (<24 h for vaginal deliveries and <72 h for cesarean-section deliveries).
Across countries, the mean length of stay ranged from 1.3 to 6.6 d: 0.5 to 6.2 d for singleton vaginal deliveries and 2.5 to 9.3 d for cesarean-section deliveries. The percentage of women staying too short ranged from 0.2% to 83% for vaginal deliveries and from 1% to 75% for cesarean-section deliveries.
Our conceptual framework identified three broad categories of factors that influenced length of stay: need-related determinants that required an indicated extension of stay, and health-system and woman/family dimensions that were drivers of inappropriately short or long stays. The factors identified as independently important in our regression analyses included cesarean-section delivery, birthweight, multiple birth, and infant survival status. Older women and women whose infants were delivered by doctors had extended lengths of stay, as did poorer women. Reliance on factors captured in secondary data that were self-reported by women up to 5 y after a live birth was the main limitation.
Conclusions
Length of stay after childbirth is very variable between countries. Substantial proportions of women stay too short to receive adequate postnatal care. We need to ensure that facilities have skilled birth attendants and effective elements of care, but also that women stay long enough to benefit from these. The challenge is to commit to achieving adequate lengths of stay in low- and middle-income countries, while ensuring any additional time is used to provide high-quality and respectful care.
Oona Campbell and colleagues frame a prediction model for post-partum length of stay and identify factors associated with length of stay in LMIC.
Editors' Summary
Background
The general recommendation to women, especially to women in resource-poor settings (where more than 95% of all maternal and newborn deaths occur), is to give birth in a health facility. How long women and infants should stay after birth, i.e., the appropriate time to discharge, depends on many factors, but it is known that during the first 24 hours after birth mothers and children are at the highest risk of complications and death. During the postpartum stay, the objectives are to monitor maternal and newborn health, and to provide education on breastfeeding and signs for health problems in mothers and infants. WHO recommends that, in resource-poor settings, mothers and newborns stay for a minimum of 24 hours after vaginal birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
Considerable effort has gone into getting women to give birth in health facilities, and some countries have even made it illegal to give birth at home. However, some reports have suggested that women and infants often spend less than the recommended minimum time after birth in the facility. Actual data on duration of postpartum stays are limited, especially for low- and middle-income countries. This study was done to provide an overview of the reality in all countries for which current data exist, and to explore factors that influence the postpartum length of stay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched databases and recent health surveys covering multiple countries for data on length of stay after facility births. Data for 40 high- and middle-income countries were available in databases compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) did not report on length of stay, but the researchers used its electronically available datasets to conduct their own analyses for 30 low- and middle-income countries. In addition, two survey programs, the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Reproductive Health Survey (CDC-RHS), reported relevant data on an additional 21 countries and one country, respectively.
The 92 countries for which they were able to obtain data included 45 middle-income and ten low-income countries (individual sources provided only some of the data that the researchers were interested in). Across countries, the mean length of stay ranged from 0.5 days (in Egypt) to 6.2 days (in Ukraine) for singleton vaginal births (data available for 71 countries) and from 2.5 days to 9.3 days for cesarean-section deliveries (data available for 30 countries). The UK was the high-income country with the shortest mean length of stay for singleton vaginal births. The percentage of stays that were “too short” ranged from 0.2% to 83% for vaginal births and from 1% to 75% for cesarean-section deliveries. In half of the 30 DHS countries, more than 20% of women who delivered in health facilities stayed too short.
Using a systematic approach to analyze the DHS results, the researchers then examined factors that influenced the length of stay. Longer stays because of increased need for care were found to be linked to birth by cesarean section, low birthweight, multiple births, and death of the newborn before discharge. Women delivered by doctors also had generally longer lengths of stay, as did older and poorer women.
What Do these Findings Mean?
For many countries, the researchers were unable to find information on postpartum length of stay, and additional research seems warranted. Moreover, in the 30 DHS countries included in the analysis here, the percentage of births in health facilities ranged from 25.1% to 99.2%, suggesting that many countries still need to increase facility births. The postpartum lengths of stay reported vary widely between countries and are likely influenced by national norms and health system features in addition to specific needs of mothers and newborns. The reasons why women leave or are discharged early appear complex and are not well understood. Nonetheless, it seems that many women stay too short to receive adequate postnatal care. This is alarming, especially in low-income settings, where access to care after discharge is often limited. Countries in which staying too short is common should examine the reasons, clearly define appropriate care in health facilities during and after birth, and ensure both that such care is offered and that mothers and newborns stay long enough to receive it.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001972.
WHO provides recommendations on postnatal care of mothers and newborns
WHO’s Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health has information on global maternal and child health
The UK National Health Service has a pregnancy and baby guide that includes information on newborn health, postnatal check-ups, the mother’s body after birth, and breastfeeding
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pages on maternal and infant health and global maternal and child health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001972
PMCID: PMC4783077  PMID: 26954561
22.  Alternative Strategies to Reduce Maternal Mortality in India: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(4):e1000264.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sue Goldie and colleagues finds that better family planning, provision of safe abortion, and improved intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care could reduce maternal mortality in India by 75% in 5 years.
Background
Approximately one-quarter of all pregnancy- and delivery-related maternal deaths worldwide occur in India. Taking into account the costs, feasibility, and operational complexity of alternative interventions, we estimate the clinical and population-level benefits associated with strategies to improve the safety of pregnancy and childbirth in India.
Methods and Findings
Country- and region-specific data were synthesized using a computer-based model that simulates the natural history of pregnancy (both planned and unintended) and pregnancy- and childbirth-associated complications in individual women; and considers delivery location, attendant, and facility level. Model outcomes included clinical events, population measures, costs, and cost-effectiveness ratios. Separate models were adapted to urban and rural India using survey-based data (e.g., unmet need for birth spacing/limiting, facility births, skilled birth attendants). Model validation compared projected maternal indicators with empiric data. Strategies consisted of improving coverage of effective interventions that could be provided individually or packaged as integrated services, could reduce the incidence of a complication or its case fatality rate, and could include improved logistics such as reliable transport to an appropriate referral facility as well as recognition of referral need and quality of care. Increasing family planning was the most effective individual intervention to reduce pregnancy-related mortality. If over the next 5 y the unmet need for spacing and limiting births was met, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented; more than US$1 billion saved; and at least one of every two abortion-related deaths averted. Still, reductions in maternal mortality reached a threshold (∼23%–35%) without including strategies that ensured reliable access to intrapartum and emergency obstetrical care (EmOC). An integrated and stepwise approach was identified that would ultimately prevent four of five maternal deaths; this approach coupled stepwise improvements in family planning and safe abortion with consecutively implemented strategies that incrementally increased skilled attendants, improved antenatal/postpartum care, shifted births away from home, and improved recognition of referral need, transport, and availability/quality of EmOC. The strategies in this approach ranged from being cost-saving to having incremental cost-effectiveness ratios less than US$500 per year of life saved (YLS), well below India's per capita gross domestic product (GDP), a common benchmark for cost-effectiveness.
Conclusions
Early intensive efforts to improve family planning and control of fertility choices and to provide safe abortion, accompanied by a paced systematic and stepwise effort to scale up capacity for integrated maternal health services over several years, is as cost-effective as childhood immunization or treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, or HIV. In just 5 y, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be averted through increasing contraception rates to meet women's needs for spacing and limiting births; nearly US$1.5 billion would be saved by coupling safe abortion to aggressive family planning efforts; and with stepwise investments to improve access to pregnancy-related health services and to high-quality facility-based intrapartum care, more than 75% of maternal deaths could be prevented. If accomplished over the next decade, the lives of more than one million women would be saved.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, more than half a million women—most of them living in developing countries—die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. About a quarter of these “maternal” deaths occur in India. In 2005, a woman's lifetime risk of maternal death in India was 1 in 70; in the UK, it was only one in 8,200. Similarly, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR; number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) in India was 450, whereas in the UK it was eight. Faced with the enormous maternal death toll in India and other developing countries, in September 2000, the United Nations pledged, as its fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5), that the global MMR would be reduced to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. Currently, it seems unlikely that this target will be met. Between 1990 and 2005, global maternal deaths decreased by only 1% per annum instead of the 5% needed to reach MDG 5; in India, the decrease in maternal deaths between 1990 and 2005 was about 1.8% per annum.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most maternal deaths in developing countries are caused by severe bleeding after childbirth, infections soon after delivery, blood pressure disorders during pregnancy, and obstructed (difficult) labors. Consequently, experts agree that universal access to high-quality routine care during labor (“obstetric” care) and to emergency obstetrical care is needed to reduce maternal deaths. However, there is less agreement about how to adapt these “ideal recommendations” to specific situations. In developing countries with weak health systems and predominantly rural populations, it is unlikely that all women will have access to emergency obstetric care in the near future—so would beginning with improved access to family planning and to safe abortions (unsafe abortion is another major cause of maternal death) be a more achievable, more cost-effective way of reducing maternal deaths? How would family planning and safe abortion be coupled efficiently and cost-effectively with improved access to intrapartum care? In this study, the researchers investigate these questions by estimating the health and economic outcomes of various strategies to reduce maternal mortality in India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a computer-based model that simulates women through pregnancy and childbirth to estimate the effect of different strategies (for example, increased family planning or increased access to obstetric care) on clinical outcomes (pregnancies, live births, or deaths), costs, and cost-effectiveness (the cost of saving one year of life) in India. Increased family planning was the most effective single intervention for the reduction of pregnancy-related mortality. If the current unmet need for family planning in India could be fulfilled over the next 5 years, more than 150,000 maternal deaths would be prevented, more than US$1 billion saved, and at least half of abortion-related deaths averted. However, increased family planning alone would reduce maternal deaths by 35% at most, so the researchers also used their model to test the effect of combinations of strategies on maternal death. They found that an integrated and stepwise approach (increased family planning and safe abortion combined with consecutively increased skilled birth attendants, improved care before and after birth, reduced home births, and improved emergency obstetric care) could eventually prevent nearly 80% of maternal deaths. All the steps in this strategy either saved money or involved an additional cost per year of life saved of less than US$500; given one suggested threshold for cost-effectiveness in India of the per capita GDP (US$1,068) per year of life saved, these strategies would be considered very cost-effective.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The accuracy of these findings depends on the assumptions used to build the model and the quality of the data fed into it. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that early intensive efforts to improve family planning and to provide safe abortion accompanied by a systematic, stepwise effort to improve integrated maternal health services could reduce maternal deaths in India by more than 75% in less than a decade. Furthermore, such a strategy would be cost-effective. Indeed, note the researchers, the cost savings from an initial focus on family planning and safe abortion provision would partly offset the resources needed to assure that every woman had access to high quality routine and emergency obstetric care. Thus, overall, these findings suggest that MDG 5 may be within reach in India, a conclusion that should help to mobilize political support for this worthy goal.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000264.
UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/The World Bank 2005 country estimates of maternal mortality
The World Health Organization also provides information on maternal health and about MDG 5 (in several languages)
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals Web site provides detailed information about the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs, their targets and their indicators, and about MDG 5.
The Millennium Development Goals Report 2009 and its progress chart provide an up-to-date assessment of progress toward all the MDGs
Computer simulation modeling as applied to health is further discussed at the Center for Health Decision Science at Harvard University
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000264
PMCID: PMC2857650  PMID: 20421922
23.  Risk of Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes among Women Practicing Poor Sanitation in Rural India: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(7):e1001851.
Background
The importance of maternal sanitation behaviour during pregnancy for birth outcomes remains unclear. Poor sanitation practices can promote infection and induce stress during pregnancy and may contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes (APOs). We aimed to assess whether poor sanitation practices were associated with increased risk of APOs such as preterm birth and low birth weight in a population-based study in rural India.
Methods and Findings
A prospective cohort of pregnant women (n = 670) in their first trimester of pregnancy was enrolled and followed until birth. Socio-demographic, clinical, and anthropometric factors, along with access to toilets and sanitation practices, were recorded at enrolment (12th week of gestation). A trained community health volunteer conducted home visits to ensure retention in the study and learn about study outcomes during the course of pregnancy. Unadjusted odds ratios (ORs) and adjusted odds ratios (AORs) and 95% confidence intervals for APOs were estimated by logistic regression models. Of the 667 women who were retained at the end of the study, 58.2% practiced open defecation and 25.7% experienced APOs, including 130 (19.4%) preterm births, 95 (14.2%) births with low birth weight, 11 (1.7%) spontaneous abortions, and six (0.9%) stillbirths. Unadjusted ORs for APOs (OR: 2.53; 95% CI: 1.72–3.71), preterm birth (OR: 2.36; 95% CI: 1.54–3.62), and low birth weight (OR: 2.00; 95% CI: 1.24–3.23) were found to be significantly associated with open defecation practices. After adjustment for potential confounders such as maternal socio-demographic and clinical factors, open defecation was still significantly associated with increased odds of APOs (AOR: 2.38; 95% CI: 1.49–3.80) and preterm birth (AOR: 2.22; 95% CI: 1.29–3.79) but not low birth weight (AOR: 1.61; 95% CI: 0.94–2.73). The association between APOs and open defecation was independent of poverty and caste. Even though we accounted for several key confounding factors in our estimates, the possibility of residual confounding should not be ruled out. We did not identify specific exposure pathways that led to the outcomes.
Conclusions
This study provides the first evidence, to our knowledge, that poor sanitation is associated with a higher risk of APOs. Additional studies are required to elucidate the socio-behavioural and/or biological basis of this association so that appropriate targeted interventions might be designed to support improved birth outcomes in vulnerable populations. While it is intuitive to expect that caste and poverty are associated with poor sanitation practice driving APOs, and we cannot rule out additional confounders, our results demonstrate that the association of poor sanitation practices (open defecation) with these outcomes is independent of poverty. Our results support the need to assess the mechanisms, both biological and behavioural, by which limited access to improved sanitation leads to APOs.
Pinaki Panigrahi and colleagues examine the association between adverse pregnancy outcomes and sanitation practices in pregnant women in rural India.
Editors' Summary
Background
Pregnancy is usually a happy time for women and their families. But, for some women, pregnancy ends unhappily. Some women lose their baby during early pregnancy (spontaneous abortion or miscarriage) or during late pregnancy (stillbirth). Others have their baby earlier than expected (preterm birth) or have a baby with low birth weight, two outcomes that adversely affect the baby’s survival and long-term health. The burden of adverse pregnancy outcomes (low birth weight, preterm birth, stillbirth, and spontaneous abortion) is substantial across the world but is particularly high in resource-limited settings. More than 60% of all preterm births take place in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and in India alone nearly 13 million babies (47% of all births) had a low birth weight in 2010. Many risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes have been identified, including infection, diabetes, poor antenatal care, and other socio-economic factors, but a clear causal mechanism for adverse pregnancy outcomes has not been established.
Why Was This Study Done?
One potential risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes, particularly in resource-limited settings, is poor sanitation—the inadequate provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human urine and feces. The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation estimates that, globally, 1.1 billion people defecate in the open, a practice that can expose individuals to contact with human feces containing infectious organisms and that can contaminate food and water. Poor sanitation might contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes by promoting infection or by causing stress during pregnancy. Women might, for example, limit their intake of food and water to avoid having to use inadequate toilet facilities, thereby adversely affecting the health of their unborn child. Here, the researchers assess whether poor sanitation practices are associated with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes by undertaking a population-based prospective study in two rural areas of Odisha state, India. Odisha has a high infant death rate (57 deaths per 1,000 live births), only 18.2% of households have access to an improved latrine (a facility such as a flush toilet that hygienically prevents human contact with human excreta), and 75% of households practice open defecation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
For their study, the researchers enrolled 670 women during the first trimester of their pregnancy. They recorded socio-demographic data (for example, age, level of education, and household assets), clinical data, weight and height, and toilet access and sanitation practices for each woman at enrollment and followed them through pregnancy until birth. Nearly two-thirds of the women practiced open defecation, and a quarter experienced an adverse pregnancy outcome, most commonly a preterm birth and/or having a baby with low birth weight. After adjustment for potential confounding factors (factors that might affect outcomes, such as socio-demographic characteristics), open defecation was significantly associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes (all four adverse outcomes considered together) and with preterm birth, but not with low birth weight (a significant association is one that is unlikely to have happened by chance). Specifically, the adjusted odds ratios (an indicator of the strength of association between an exposure and an outcome; an odds ratio of more than one indicates that an exposure increases the risk of an outcome) of adverse pregnancy outcomes and preterm birth among women practicing open defecation compared with women with access to a latrine were 2.38 and 2.22, respectively. Notably, these associations were independent of poverty, caste, and religion.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, among women in Odisha, defecation in the open (poor sanitation) during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of any adverse pregnancy outcome and of preterm birth than the use of a latrine. Counterintuitively, these findings also suggest that the association between open defecation and adverse pregnancy outcomes is not explained by poverty. Although the researchers adjusted for numerous confounding factors in their analysis, the women who defecated in the open may have shared some other unknown characteristic (residual confounding) that was actually responsible for their increased risk of an adverse pregnancy outcome. Further studies are now needed to determine the socio-behavioral and/or biological basis of the association between poor sanitation and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Appropriate public health interventions can then be designed to reduce the burden of adverse pregnancy outcomes among women living in settings where there is limited access to adequate sanitation.
Additional Information
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001828.
The March of Dimes, a non-profit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and low birth weight
Tommy’s, a UK non-profit organization that funds research into stillbirth, premature birth, and miscarriage, also provides information about adverse pregnancy outcomes
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information on water, sanitation, and health (in several languages)
The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation monitors progress toward improved global sanitation; its 2014 report on progress in water sanitation is available (in several languages)
The children’s charity UNICEF, which protects the rights of children and young people around the world, provides information on water, sanitation, and health (in several languages)
The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council and the non-governmental organization Practical Action provide information on approaches and technologies for improving sanitation
A PLOS Medicine Collection on water and sanitation and a Policy Forum by Velleman et al. on improving water, sanitation, and hygiene for maternal and newborn health are available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001851
PMCID: PMC4511257  PMID: 26151447
24.  Formative research and development of innovative tools for “Better Outcomes in Labour Difficulty” (BOLD): study protocol 
Reproductive Health  2015;12:50.
Background
Most complications during labour and childbirth could be averted with timely interventions by skilled healthcare providers. Yet, the quality and outcomes of childbirth care remains suboptimal in many health facilities in low-resource settings. To accelerate the reduction of childbirth-related maternal, fetal and newborn mortality and morbidity, the World Health Organization has initiated the “Better Outcomes in Labour Difficulty” (BOLD) project to address weaknesses in labour care processes and better connect health systems and communities. The project seeks to develop a “Simplified, Effective, Labour Monitoring-to-Action” tool (SELMA) to assist healthcare providers to monitor labour and take decisive actions more efficiently; and by developing an innovative set of service prototypes and/or tools termed “Passport to Safer Birth”, designed with communities and healthcare providers, to promote access to quality care for women during childbirth. This protocol describes the formative research activities to support the development of these tools.
Methods/Design
We will employ qualitative research and service design methodologies in eight health facilities and their catchment communities in Nigeria and Uganda. In the health facilities, focus group discussions (FGD) and in-depth interviews (IDI) will be conducted among different cadres of healthcare providers and facility administrators. In the communities, FGDs and IDIs will be conducted among women who have delivered in a health facility. We will use service design methods to explore women’s journey to access and receive childbirth care in order to innovate and design services around the needs and expectations of women, within the context of the health system.
Discussion
This formative research will serve several roles. First, it will provide an in-depth understanding of healthcare providers and health system issues to be accounted for in the final design and implementation of SELMA. Second, it will help to identify key moments (“touch points”) where women’s experiences of childbirth care are shaped, and where the overall experience of quality care could be improved. The synthesis of findings from the qualitative and service design activities will help identify potential areas for behaviour change related to the provision and experience of childbirth care, and serve as the basis for the development of Passport to Safer Birth.
Please see related articles ‘http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12978-015-0027-6’ and ‘http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12978-015-0029-4’.
doi:10.1186/s12978-015-0028-5
PMCID: PMC4464989  PMID: 26006320
Quality of care; Pregnancy; Childbirth; Obstetric delivery; Obstetric labour complications; Maternal health; Service design; Qualitative
25.  ‘Born before arrival’: user and provider perspectives on health facility childbirths in Kapiri Mposhi district, Zambia 
Background
Maternal mortality remains high in sub-Saharan Africa. Health facility intra-partum strategies with skilled birth attendance have been shown to be most effective to address maternal mortality. In Zambia, the health policy for pregnant women is to have facility childbirth, but less than half of the women utilize the facilities for delivery. ‘Born before arrival’ (BBA) describes childbirth that occurs outside health facility. With the aim to increase our understanding of trust in facility birth care we explored how users and providers perceived the low utilization of health facilities during childbirth.
Methods
A qualitative study was conducted in Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia. Focus group discussions with antenatal clinic and outpatient department attendees were conducted in 2008 as part of the Response to Accountable priority setting and Trust in health systems project, (REACT). In-depth interviews conducted with women who delivered at home, their husbands, community leaders, traditional birth attendants, and midwives were added in 2011. Information was collected on perceptions and experiences of home and health facility childbirth, and reasons for not utilizing a facility at delivery. Data were analysed by inductive content analysis.
Results
Perspectives of users and providers were grouped under themes that included experiences related to promotion of facility childbirth, responsiveness of health care providers, and giving birth at home. Trust and quality of care were important when individuals seek facility childbirth. Safety, privacy and confidentiality encouraged facility childbirth. Poor attitudes of health providers, long distances and lack of transport to facilities, costs to buy delivery kits, and cultural ideals that local herbs speed up labour and women should exhibit endurance at childbirth discouraged facility childbirth.
Conclusion
Trust and perceived quality of care were important and influenced health care seeking at childbirth. Interventions that include both the demand and supply sides of services with prioritizing needs of the community could substantially improve trust and utilization of facilities at childbirth, and accelerate efforts to achieve MDG5.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-323) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-323
PMCID: PMC4171557  PMID: 25223631
Home deliveries; Health facility childbirth; Born before arrival; Responsiveness; Zambia

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