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1.  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.
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.
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
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
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
PMCID: PMC3389036  PMID: 22802737
2.  Women’s Reproductive Health in Slum Populations in India: Evidence From NFHS-3 
The urban population in India is one of the largest in the world. Its unprecedented growth has resulted in a large section of the population living in abject poverty in overcrowded slums. There have been limited efforts to capture the health of people in urban slums. In the present study, we have used data collected during the National Family Health Survey-3 to provide a national representation of women’s reproductive health in the slum population in India. We examined a sample of 4,827 women in the age group of 15–49 years to assess the association of the variable slum with selected reproductive health services. We have also tried to identify the sociodemographic factors that influence the utilization of these services among women in the slum communities. All analyses were stratified by slum/non-slum residence, and multivariate logistic regression was used to analyze the strength of association between key reproductive health services and relevant sociodemographic factors. We found that less than half of the women from the slum areas were currently using any contraceptive methods, and discontinuation rate was higher among these women. Sterilization was the most common method of contraception (25%). Use of contraceptives depended on the age, level of education, parity, and the knowledge of contraceptive methods (p < 0.05). There were significant differences in the two populations based on the timing and frequency of antenatal visits. The probability of ANC visits depended significantly on the level of education and economic status (p < 0.05). We found that among slum women, the proportion of deliveries conducted by skilled attendants was low, and the percentage of home deliveries was high. The use of skilled delivery care was found to be significantly associated with age, level of education, economic status, parity, and prior antenatal visits (p < 0.05). We found that women from slum areas depended on the government facilities for reproductive health services. Our findings suggest that significant differences in reproductive health outcomes exist among women from slum and non-slum communities in India. Efforts to progress towards the health MDGs and other national or international health targets may not be achieved without a focus on the urban slum population.
PMCID: PMC2845837  PMID: 20148311
Slum; India; National Family Health Survey-3; Contraception; Antenatal care; Skilled delivery care
3.  Socio-economic factors explain differences in public health-related variables among women in Bangladesh: A cross-sectional study 
BMC Public Health  2008;8:254.
Worldwide one billion people are living in slum communities and experts projected that this number would double by 2030. Slum populations, which are increasing at an alarming rate in Bangladesh mainly due to rural-urban migration, are often neglected and characterized by poverty, poor housing, overcrowding, poor environment, and high prevalence of communicable diseases. Unfortunately, comparisons between women living in slums and those not living in slums are very limited in Bangladesh. The objectives of the study were to examine the association of living in slums (dichotomized as slum versus non-slum) with selected public health-related variables among women, first without adjusting for the influence of other factors and then in the presence of socio-economic variables.
Secondary data was used in this study. 120 women living in slums (as cases) and 480 age-matched women living in other areas (as controls) were extracted from the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2004. Many socio-economic and demographic variables were analysed. SPSS was used to perform simple as well as multiple analyses. P-values based on t-test and Wald test were also reported to show the significance level.
Unadjusted results indicated that a significantly higher percent of women living in slums came from country side, had a poorer status by household characteristics, had less access to mass media, and had less education than women not living in slums. Mean BMI, knowledge of AIDS indicated by ever heard about AIDS, knowledge of avoiding AIDS by condom use, receiving adequate antenatal visits (4 or more) during the last pregnancy, and safe delivery practices assisted by skilled sources were significantly lower among women living in slums than those women living in other areas. However, all the unadjusted significant associations with the variable slum were greatly attenuated and became insignificant (expect safe delivery practices) when some socio-economic variables namely childhood place of residence, a composite variable of household characteristics, a composite variable of mass media access, and education were inserted into the multiple regression models. Taken together, childhood place of residence, the composite variable of mass media access, and education were the strongest predictors for the health related outcomes.
Reporting unadjusted findings of public health variables in women from slums versus non-slums can be misleading due to confounding factors. Our findings suggest that an association of childhood place of residence, mass media access and public health education should be considered before making any inference based on slum versus non-slum comparisons.
PMCID: PMC2496908  PMID: 18651946
4.  Prevalence and determinants of unintended pregnancy among women in Nairobi, Kenya 
The prevalence of unintended pregnancy in Kenya continues to be high. The 2003 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) showed that nearly 50% of unmarried women aged 15–19 and 45% of the married women reported their current pregnancies as mistimed or unwanted. The 2008–09 KDHS showed that 43% of married women in Kenya reported their current pregnancies were unintended. Unintended pregnancy is one of the most critical factors contributing to schoolgirl drop out in Kenya. Up to 13,000 Kenyan girls drop out of school every year as a result of unintended pregnancy. Unsafe pregnancy termination contributes immensely to maternal mortality which currently estimated at 488 deaths per 100 000 live births. In Kenya, the determinants of prevalence and determinants of unintended pregnancy among women in diverse social and economic situations, particularly in urban areas, are poorly understood due to lack of data. This paper addresses the prevalence and the determinants of unintended pregnancy among women in slum and non-slum settlements of Nairobi.
This study used the data that was collected among a random sample of 1262 slum and non-slum women aged 15–49 years in Nairobi. The data was analyzed using simple percentages and logistic regression.
The study found that 24 percent of all the women had unintended pregnancy. The prevalence of unintended pregnancy was 21 per cent among women in slum settlements compared to 27 per cent among those in non-slum settlements. Marital status, employment status, ethnicity and type of settlement were significantly associated with unintended pregnancy. Logistic analysis results indicate that age, marital status and type of settlement had statistically significantly effects on unintended pregnancy. Young women aged 15–19 were significantly more likely than older women to experience unintended pregnancy. Similarly, unmarried women showed elevated risk for unintended pregnancy than ever-married women. Women in non-slum settlements were significantly more likely to experience unintended pregnancy than their counterparts in slum settlements.
The determinants of unintended pregnancy differed between women in each type of settlement. Among slum women, age, parity and marital status each had significant net effect on unintended pregnancy. But for non-slum women, it was marital status and ethnicity that had significant net effects.
The study found a high prevalence of unintended pregnancy among the study population and indicated that young and unmarried women, irrespective of their educational attainment and household wealth status, have a higher likelihood of experiencing unintended pregnancy. Except for the results on educational attainments and household wealth, these results compared well with the results reported in the literature.
The results indicate the need for effective programs and strategies to increase access to contraceptive services and related education, information and communication among the study population, particularly among the young and unmarried women. Increased access to family planning services is key to reducing unintended pregnancy among the study population. This calls for concerted efforts by all the stakeholders to improve access to family planning services among the study population. Increased access should be accompanied with improvement in the quality of care and availability of information about effective utilization of family planning methods.
PMCID: PMC3607892  PMID: 23510090
Unintended pregnancy; Determinants; Slum; Non-slum settlements; Urban; Nairobi; Kenya
5.  Access To Essential Maternal Health Interventions and Human Rights Violations among Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Burma 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e242.
Health indicators are poor and human rights violations are widespread in eastern Burma. Reproductive and maternal health indicators have not been measured in this setting but are necessary as part of an evaluation of a multi-ethnic pilot project exploring strategies to increase access to essential maternal health interventions. The goal of this study is to estimate coverage of maternal health services prior to this project and associations between exposure to human rights violations and access to such services.
Methods and Findings
Selected communities in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma that were accessible to community-based organizations operating from Thailand were surveyed to estimate coverage of reproductive, maternal, and family planning services, and to assess exposure to household-level human rights violations within the pilot-project target population. Two-stage cluster sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) documented access to essential antenatal care interventions, skilled attendance at birth, postnatal care, and family planning services. Mid-upper arm circumference, hemoglobin by color scale, and Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia by rapid diagnostic dipstick were measured. Exposure to human rights violations in the prior 12 mo was recorded. Between September 2006 and January 2007, 2,914 surveys were conducted. Eighty-eight percent of women reported a home delivery for their last pregnancy (within previous 5 y). Skilled attendance at birth (5.1%), any (39.3%) or ≥ 4 (16.7%) antenatal visits, use of an insecticide-treated bed net (21.6%), and receipt of iron supplements (11.8%) were low. At the time of the survey, more than 60% of women had hemoglobin level estimates ≤ 11.0 g/dl and 7.2% were Pf positive. Unmet need for contraceptives exceeded 60%. Violations of rights were widely reported: 32.1% of Karenni households reported forced labor and 10% of Karen households had been forced to move. Among Karen households, odds of anemia were 1.51 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.95–2.40) times higher among women reporting forced displacement, and 7.47 (95% CI 2.21–25.3) higher among those exposed to food security violations. The odds of receiving no antenatal care services were 5.94 (95% CI 2.23–15.8) times higher among those forcibly displaced.
Coverage of basic maternal health interventions is woefully inadequate in these selected populations and substantially lower than even the national estimates for Burma, among the lowest in the region. Considerable political, financial, and human resources are necessary to improve access to maternal health care in these communities.
Luke Mullany and colleagues examine access to essential maternal health interventions and human rights violations within vulnerable communities in eastern Burma.
Editors' Summary
After decades of military rule, Burma has one of the world's worst health-care systems and high levels of ill health. For example, maternal mortality (deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes) is around 360 per 100,000 live births in Burma, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44 per 100,000 live births. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Karenni, Karen and Mon states in eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, maternal mortality is thought to be about 1000 per 100, 000 live births. In an effort to improve access to life-saving maternal health interventions in these states, Burmese community-based health organizations, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights and the Global Health Access Program in the USA, and the Mae Tao Clinic (a health-worker training center in Thailand) recently set up the Mobile Obstetric Maternal Health Workers (MOM) Project. In this pilot project, local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, emergency obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), blood transfusion, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic. Back in Burma, these maternal health workers trained additional local health workers and traditional birth attendants. All these individuals now provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
The effectiveness of the MOM project can only be evaluated if accurate baseline information on women's access to maternal health-care services is available. This information is also needed to ensure the wise use of scarce health-care resources. However, very little is known about reproductive and maternal health in eastern Burma. In this study, the researchers analyze the information on women's access to reproductive and maternal health-care services that was collected during the initial field implementation stage of the MOM project. In addition, they analyze whether exposure to enforced village relocations and other human rights violations affect access to maternal health-care services.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Trained survey workers asked nearly 3000 ever-married women of reproductive age in the selected communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. They measured each woman's mid-upper arm circumference (an indicator of nutritional status) and tested them for anemia (iron deficiency) and infection with malaria parasites (a common cause of anemia in tropical countries). Finally, they asked the women about any recent violations of their human rights such as forced labour or relocation. Nearly 90% of the women reported a home delivery for their last baby. A skilled attendant was present at only one in 20 births and only one in three women had any antenatal care. One third of the women received postnatal care and only a third said they had access to effective contraceptives. Few women had received iron supplements or had used insecticide-treated bednets to avoid malaria-carrying mosquitos. Consequently, more than half the women were anemic and 7.2% were infected with malaria parasites. Many women also showed signs of poor nutrition. Finally, human rights violations were widely reported by the women. In Karen, the region containing most of the study communities, forced relocation tripled the risk of women developing anemia and greatly decreased their chances of receiving any antenatal care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that access to maternal health-care interventions is extremely limited and that poor nutrition, anemia, and malaria, all of which increase the risk of pregnancy complications, are widespread in the communities in the MOM project. Because these communities had some basic health services and access to training in Thailand before the project started, these results probably underestimate the lack of access to maternal health-care services in eastern Burma. Nevertheless, it is clear that considerable political, financial, and human resources will be needed to improve maternal health in this region. Finally, the findings also reveal a link between human rights violations and reduced access to maternal health-care services. Thus, the scale of human rights violations will need to be considered when evaluating programs designed to improve maternal health in Burma and in other places where there is ongoing conflict.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This research article is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Macaya Douoguih
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao Clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
More information about the MOM project is available in a previous publication by the researchers
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and ongoing efforts to save mothers' lives around the world
PMCID: PMC2605890  PMID: 19108601
6.  Beliefs and practices during pregnancy and childbirth in urban slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:791.
Worldwide urbanization has become a crucial issue in recent years. Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most densely-populated countries in the world, has been facing rapid urbanization. In urban areas, maternal indicators are generally worse in the slums than in the urban non-slum areas. The Manoshi program at BRAC, a non governmental organization, works to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in the urban slums of Bangladesh. This paper describes maternal related beliefs and practices in the urban slums of Dhaka and provides baseline information for the Manoshi program.
This is a descriptive study where data were collected using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The respondents for the quantitative methods, through a baseline survey using a probability sample, were mothers with infants (n = 672) living in the Manoshi program areas. Apart from this, as part of a formative research, thirty six in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted during the same period from two of the above Manoshi program areas among currently pregnant women who had also previously given births (n = 18); and recently delivered women (n = 18).
The baseline survey revealed that one quarter of the recently delivered women received at least four antenatal care visits and 24 percent women received at least one postnatal care visit. Eighty-five percent of deliveries took place at home and 58 percent of the deliveries were assisted by untrained traditional birth attendants. The women mostly relied on their landladies for information and support. Members of the slum community mainly used cheap, easily accessible and available informal sectors for seeking care. Cultural beliefs and practices also reinforced this behavior, including home delivery without skilled assistance.
Behavioral change messages are needed to increase the numbers of antenatal and postnatal care visits, improve birth preparedness, and encourage skilled attendance at delivery. Programs in the urban slum areas should also consider interventions to improve social support for key influential persons in the community, particularly landladies who serve as advisors and decision-makers.
PMCID: PMC3532223  PMID: 22978705
Beliefs and practices; Maternal care; Urban-slum; Bangladesh
7.  "Who am I? Where am I?" Experiences of married young women in a slum in Islamabad, Pakistan 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:265.
In Pakistan, 16% of the women aged 15–19 years are married. Many get married shortly after they attain menarche. This study explores the preparedness for and actual experiences of married life (inter-spousal relationship, sexual activity and pregnancy) among adolescent women.
Among married adolescent women residing in a slum of Islamabad ten were selected with the help of a community health worker and interviewed qualitatively till saturation was reached. They were interviewed three times at different occasions. Narrative structuring was used to explore how the participants represented their background, social situation, decision making and spousal communication and how they explained, understood and managed married life and bore children.
Two categories identifying the respondents as either submissive-accepting or submissive-victims emerged. The married young women who belonged to the accepting group lived under compromised conditions but described themselves as satisfied with their situation. They were older than the other group identifying themselves as victims. However, none of the respondents felt prepared for marriage. Women belonging to the victimized group experienced physical and verbal abuse for their inability to cope with the duties of a wife, caretaker of the home and bearer of children. Their situation was compounded by the power dynamics within the household.
Knowledge about sexuality could prepare them better for the future life and give them more control of their fertility. Adolescent development and life skills education need to be addressed at a national level. There is need for innovative interventions to reach out and provide support to young women in disadvantaged homes.
PMCID: PMC2724518  PMID: 19638190
8.  Knowledge and attitude towards child marriage practice among women married as children-a qualitative study in urban slums of Lahore, Pakistan 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1148.
Child marriage (<18 years) is prevalent in Pakistan which is associated with negative health outcomes. Our aim is to describe women’s knowledge and attitude towards child marriage practice who themselves were married as children.
Women of reproductive age (15–49 years) who were married prior to 18 years, for at least 5 years and had at least one child birth were recruited from most populous slum areas of Lahore, Pakistan. Themes for the interview were developed using published literature and everyday observations of the researchers. Interviews were conducted by trained interviewers in Urdu language and were translated into English. The interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed, analyzed and categorized into themes.
Nineteen of 20 participants who agreed to participate were married between 11–17 years. Most respondents were uneducated, poor and were working as housemaids. The majority participants were unaware of the negative health outcomes of child marriages. They appeared satisfied by the decision of their parents of marrying them before 18 years, and even condemned banning child marriages in Pakistan. Strong influence of culture and community perceptions, varying interpretation of religion, and protecting family honor are some of the reasons that were narrated by the participants, which seems playing a role in continuation of child marriage practice in Pakistan.
Raising awareness of the negative health outcomes of child marriage, implementing and enforcing strict laws against child marriage practice, promoting civil, sexual and reproductive health rights for women, can help eliminate child marriages in Pakistan.
PMCID: PMC4289044  PMID: 25374265
Child marriage; Women; Honor; Culture; Knowledge; Attitude; Pakistan
9.  Newborn care practices among slum dwellers in Dhaka, Bangladesh: a quantitative and qualitative exploratory study 
Urbanization is occurring at a rapid pace, especially in low-income countries. Dhaka, Bangladesh, is estimated to grow to 50 million by 2015, with 21 million living in urban slums. Although health services are available, neonatal mortality is higher in slum areas than in urban non-slum areas. The Manoshi program works to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in urban slums in Bangladesh. This paper describes newborn care practices in urban slums in Dhaka and provides program recommendations.
A quantitative baseline survey was conducted in six urban slum areas to measure newborn care practices among recently delivered women (n = 1,256). Thirty-six in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted to explore newborn care practices among currently pregnant women (n = 18) and women who had at least one delivery (n = 18).
In the baseline survey, the majority of women gave birth at home (84%). Most women reported having knowledge about drying the baby (64%), wrapping the baby after birth (59%), and cord care (46%). In the in-depth interviews, almost all women reported using sterilized instruments to cut the cord. Babies are typically bathed soon after birth to purify them from the birth process. There was extensive care given to the umbilical cord including massage and/or applying substances, as well as a variety of practices to keep the baby warm. Exclusive breastfeeding was rare; most women reported first giving their babies sweet water, honey and/or other foods.
These reported newborn care practices are similar to those in rural areas of Bangladesh and to urban and rural areas in the South Asia region. There are several program implications. Educational messages to promote providing newborn care immediately after birth, using sterile thread, delaying bathing, and ensuring dry cord care and exclusive breastfeeding are needed. Programs in urban slum areas should also consider interventions to improve social support for women, especially first time mothers. These interventions may improve newborn survival and help achieve MDG4.
PMCID: PMC2784437  PMID: 19919700
10.  Adolescent pregnancies and girls' sexual and reproductive rights in the amazon basin of Ecuador: an analysis of providers' and policy makers' discourses 
Adolescent pregnancies are a common phenomenon that can have both positive and negative consequences. The rights framework allows us to explore adolescent pregnancies not just as isolated events, but in relation to girls' sexual and reproductive freedom and their entitlement to a system of health protection that includes both health services and the so called social determinants of health. The aim of this study was to explore policy makers' and service providers' discourses concerning adolescent pregnancies, and discuss the consequences that those discourses have for the exercise of girls' sexual and reproductive rights' in the province of Orellana, located in the amazon basin of Ecuador.
We held six focus-group discussions and eleven in-depth interviews with 41 Orellana's service providers and policy makers. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using discourse analysis, specifically looking for interpretative repertoires.
Four interpretative repertoires emerged from the interviews. The first repertoire identified was "sex is not for fun" and reflected a moralistic construction of girls' sexual and reproductive health that emphasized abstinence, and sent contradictory messages regarding contraceptive use. The second repertoire -"gendered sexuality and parenthood"-constructed women as sexually uninterested and responsible mothers, while men were constructed as sexually driven and unreliable. The third repertoire was "professionalizing adolescent pregnancies" and lead to patronizing attitudes towards adolescents and disregard of the importance of non-medical expertise. The final repertoire -"idealization of traditional family"-constructed family as the proper space for the raising of adolescents while at the same time acknowledging that sexual abuse and violence within families was common.
Providers' and policy makers' repertoires determined the areas that the array of sexual and reproductive health services should include, leaving out the ones more prone to cause conflict and opposition, such as gender equality, abortion provision and welfare services for pregnant adolescents. Moralistic attitudes and sexism were present - even if divergences were also found-, limiting services' capability to promote girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights.
PMCID: PMC2889876  PMID: 20525405
11.  Influence of gender roles and rising food prices on poor, pregnant women’s eating and food provisioning practices in Dhaka, Bangladesh 
Reproductive Health  2013;10:53.
Maternal malnutrition in Bangladesh is a persistent health issue and is the product of a number of complex factors, including adherence to food 'taboos’ and a patriarchal gender order that limits women’s mobility and decision-making. The recent global food price crisis is also negatively impacting poor pregnant women’s access to food. It is believed that those who are most acutely affected by rising food prices are the urban poor. While there is an abundance of useful quantitative research centered on maternal nutrition and food insecurity measurements in Bangladesh, missing is an understanding of how food insecurity is experienced by people who are most vulnerable, the urban ultra-poor. In particular, little is known of the lived experience of food insecurity among pregnant women in this context. This research investigated these lived experiences by exploring food provisioning strategies of urban, ultra-poor, pregnant women. This knowledge is important as discussions surrounding the creation of new development goals are currently underway.
Using a focused-ethnographic approach, household food provisioning experiences were explored. Data from participant observation, a focus group discussion and semi-structured interviews were collected in an urban slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Interviews were undertaken with 28 participants including 12 pregnant women and new mothers, two husbands, nine non-pregnant women, and five health care workers.
The key findings are: 1) women were aware of the importance of good nutrition and demonstrated accurate, biomedically-based knowledge of healthy eating practices during pregnancy; 2) the normative gender rules that have traditionally constrained women’s access to nutritional resources are relaxing in the urban setting; however 3) women are challenged in accessing adequate quality and quantities of food due to the increase in food prices at the market.
Rising food prices and resultant food insecurity due to insufficient incomes are negating the recent efforts that have increased women’s knowledge of healthy eating during pregnancy and their gendered empowerment. In order to maintain the gains in nutritional knowledge and women’s increased mobility and decision-making capacity; policy must also consider the global political economy of food in the creation of the new development goals.
PMCID: PMC3849683  PMID: 24069937
Maternal malnutrition; Pregnancy; Gender; Women; Food insecurity; Urban; Ultra-poor; Bangladesh
12.  Family Planning Use among Urban Poor Women from Six Cities of Uttar Pradesh, India 
Family planning has widespread positive impacts for population health and well-being; contraceptive use not only decreases unintended pregnancies and reduces infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, but it is critical to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. This study uses baseline, representative data from six cities in Uttar Pradesh, India to examine family planning use among the urban poor. Data were collected from about 3,000 currently married women in each city (Allahabad, Agra, Varanasi, Aligarh, Gorakhpur, and Moradabad) for a total sample size of 17,643 women. Participating women were asked about their fertility desires, family planning use, and reproductive health. The survey over-sampled slum residents; this permits in-depth analyses of the urban poor and their family planning use behaviors. Bivariate and multivariate analyses are used to examine the role of wealth and education on family planning use and unmet need for family planning. Across all of the cities, about 50% of women report modern method use. Women in slum areas generally report less family planning use and among those women who use, slum women are more likely to be sterilized than to use other methods, including condoms and hormonal methods. Across all cities, there is a higher unmet need for family planning to limit childbearing than for spacing births. Poorer women are more likely to have an unmet need than richer women in both the slum and non-slum samples; this effect is attenuated when education is included in the analysis. Programs seeking to target the urban poor in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere in India may be better served to identify the less educated women and target these women with appropriate family planning messages and methods that meet their current and future fertility desire needs.
PMCID: PMC3535138  PMID: 22399250
Slum; Uttar Pradesh; India; Family planning; Unmet need; Urban poor
13.  The 2005 census and mapping of slums in Bangladesh: design, select results and application 
The concentration of poverty and adverse environmental circumstances within slums, particularly those in the cities of developing countries, are an increasingly important concern for both public health policy initiatives and related programs in other sectors. However, there is a dearth of information on the population-level implications of slum life for human health. This manuscript describes the 2005 Census and Mapping of Slums (CMS), which used geographic information systems (GIS) tools and digital satellite imagery combined with more traditional fieldwork methodologies, to obtain detailed, up-to-date and new information about slum life in all slums of six major cities in Bangladesh (including Dhaka).
The CMS found that Bangladeshi slums are very diverse: there are wide intra- and inter-city variations in population size, density, the percent of urban populations living in slums, and sanitation conditions. Findings also show that common beliefs about slums may be outdated; of note, tenure insecurity was found to be an issue in only a small minority of slums.
The methodology used in the 2005 Bangladesh CMS provides a useful approach to mapping slums that could be applied to urban areas in other low income societies. This methodology may become an increasingly important analytic tool to inform policy, as cities in developing countries are forecasted to continue increasing their share of total global population in the coming years, with slum populations more than doubling in size during the same period.
PMCID: PMC2701942  PMID: 19505333
14.  Vulnerability to Food Insecurity in Urban Slums: Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya 
Food and nutrition security is critical for economic development due to the role of nutrition in healthy growth and human capital development. Slum residents, already grossly affected by chronic poverty, are highly vulnerable to different forms of shocks, including those arising from political instability. This study describes the food security situation among slum residents in Nairobi, with specific focus on vulnerability associated with the 2007/2008 postelection crisis in Kenya. The study from which the data is drawn was nested within the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System (NUHDSS), which follows about 70,000 individuals from close to 30,000 households in two slums in Nairobi, Kenya. The study triangulates data from qualitative and quantitative sources. It uses qualitative data from 10 focus group discussions with community members and 12 key-informant interviews with community opinion leaders conducted in November 2010, and quantitative data involving about 3,000 households randomly sampled from the NUHDSS database in three rounds of data collection between March 2011 and January 2012. Food security was defined using the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) criteria. The study found high prevalence of food insecurity; 85 % of the households were food insecure, with 50 % being severely food insecure. Factors associated with food security include level of income, source of livelihood, household size, dependence ratio; illness, perceived insecurity and slum of residence. The qualitative narratives highlighted household vulnerability to food insecurity as commonplace but critical during times of crisis. Respondents indicated that residents in the slums generally eat for bare survival, with little concern for quality. The narratives described heightened vulnerability during the 2007/2008 postelection violence in Kenya in the perception of slum residents. Prices of staple foods like maize flour doubled and simultaneously household purchasing power was eroded due to worsened unemployment situation. The use of negative coping strategies to address food insecurity such as reducing the number of meals, reducing food variety and quality, scavenging, and eating street foods was prevalent. In conclusion, this study describes the deeply intertwined nature of chronic poverty and acute crisis, and the subsequent high levels of food insecurity in urban slum settings. Households are extremely vulnerable to food insecurity; the situation worsening during periods of crisis in the perception of slum residents, engendering frequent use of negative coping strategies. Effective response to addressing vulnerability to household food insecurity among the urban poor should focus on both the underlying vulnerabilities of households due to chronic poverty and added impacts of acute crises.
PMCID: PMC4242851  PMID: 25172616
Urban poor; Sub-Saharan Africa; Food security; Kenya; Crisis; Vulnerability
15.  Prevalence and correlates of smoking among urban adult men in Bangladesh: slum versus non-slum comparison 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:149.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of premature death particularly in developing countries. The prevalence of smoking is high among the general male population in Bangladesh. Unfortunately smoking information including correlates of smoking in the cities especially in the urban slums is very scarce, although urbanization is rapid in Bangladesh and slums are growing quickly in its major cities. Therefore this study reported prevalences of cigarette and bidi smoking and their correlates separately by urban slums and non-slums in Bangladesh.
We used secondary data which was collected by the 2006 Urban Health Survey. The data were representative for the urban areas in Bangladesh. Both slums and non-slums located in the six City Corporations were considered. Slums in the cities were identified by two steps, first by using the satellite images and secondly by ground truthing. At the next stage, several clusters of households were selected by using proportional sampling. Then from each of the selected clusters, about 25 households were randomly selected. Information of a total of 12,155 adult men, aged 15–59 years, was analyzed by stratifying them into slum (= 6,488) and non-slum (= 5,667) groups. Simple frequency, bivariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed using SPSS.
Overall smoking prevalence for the total sample was 53.6% with significantly higher prevalences among men in slums (59.8%) than non-slums (46.4%). Respondents living in slums reported a significantly (P < 0.001) higher prevalence of smoking cigarettes (53.3%) as compared to those living in non-slums (44.6%). A similar pattern was found for bidis (slums = 11.4% and non-slums = 3.2%, P < 0.001). Multivariable logistic regression revealed significantly higher odds ratio (OR) of smoking cigarettes (OR = 1.12, 95% CI = 1.03–1.22), bidis (OR = 1.90, 95% CI = 1.58–2.29) and any of the two (OR = 1.23, 95% CI = 1.13–1.34) among men living in slums as compared to those living in non-slums when controlled for age, division, education, marital status, religion, birth place and types of work. Division, education and types of work were the common significant correlates for both cigarette and bidi smoking in slums and non-slums by multivariable logistic regressions. Other significant correlates of smoking cigarettes were marital status (both areas), birth place (slums), and religion (non-slums). Similarly significant factors for smoking bidis were age (both areas), marital status (slums), religion (non-slums), and birth place (both areas).
The men living in the urban slums reported higher rates of smoking cigarettes and bidis as compared to men living in the urban non-slums. Some of the significant correlates of smoking e.g. education and division should be considered for prevention activities. Our findings clearly underscore the necessity of interventions and preventions by policy makers, public health experts and other stakeholders in slums because smoking was more prevalent in the slum communities with detrimental health sequelae.
PMCID: PMC2705350  PMID: 19463157
16.  Unintended Pregnancies among Young Women Living in Urban Slums: Evidence from a Prospective Study in Nairobi City, Kenya 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101034.
Despite the significant proportion of young people residing in slum communities, little attention has been paid to the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) challenges they face during their transition to adulthood within this harsh environment. Little is known about the extent to which living in extreme environments, like slums, impact SRH outcomes, especially during this key developmental period. This paper aims to fill this research gap by examining the levels of and factors associated with unintended pregnancies among young women aged 15–22 in two informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.
We use data from two waves of a 3-year prospective survey that collected information from adolescents living in the two slums in 2007–2010. In total, 849 young women aged 15–22 were considered for analysis. We employed Cox and logistic regression models to investigate factors associated with timing of pregnancy experience and unintended pregnancy among adolescents who were sexually active by Wave 1 or Wave 2.
About two thirds of sexually experienced young women (69%) have ever been pregnant by Wave 2. For 41% of adolescents, the pregnancies were unintended, with 26% being mistimed and 15% unwanted. Multivariate analysis shows a significant association between a set of factors including age at first sex, schooling status, living arrangements and timing of pregnancy experience. In addition, marital status, schooling status, age at first sex and living arrangements are the only factors that are significantly associated with unintended pregnancy among the young women.
Overall, this study underscores the importance of looking at reproductive outcomes of early sexual initiation, the serious health risks early fertility entail, especially among out-of school girls, and sexual activity in general among young women living in slum settlements. This provides greater impetus for addressing reproductive behaviors among young women living in resource-poor settings such as slums.
PMCID: PMC4117474  PMID: 25080352
17.  Prevalence and correlates of physical spousal violence against women in slum and non-slum areas of urban Bangladesh 
Journal of interpersonal violence  2011;26(13):10.1177/0886260510388282.
This study explored the prevalence and correlates of past-year physical violence against women in slum and non-slum areas of urban Bangladesh. We used multivariate logistic regression to analyze data from the 2006 Urban Health Survey, a population-based survey of 9122 currently married women aged 15–49 selected using a multi-stage cluster sampling design. The prevalence of reported past-year physical spousal violence was 31%. Prevalence of past-year physical spousal violence was higher in slums (35%) than in non-slums (20%). Slapping/arm-twisting and pushing/shaking/throwing something at the women were the most commonly reported acts of physical abuse. Multivariate analysis showed that the risk of physical spousal abuse was lower among older women, women with post-primary education, and those belonging to rich households and women whose husband considered their opinion in decision-making. Women were at higher risk of abuse if they had many children, believed that married woman should work if the husband is not making enough money, and approved wife beating norms. This study serves to confirm the commonness of physical spousal abuse in urban Bangladesh demonstrating the seriousness of this multifaceted phenomenon as a social and public health issue. The present findings suggest the need for comprehensive prevention and intervention strategies that capitalize on the interplay of individual and sociocultural factors that cause physical spousal violence. Our study adds to a growing literature documenting domestic violence against women in urban areas of developing south Asian nations.
PMCID: PMC3845968  PMID: 21831870
18.  Sexuality in Adolescents: have we Explored Enough! A Cross-sectional Study to Explore Adolescent Health in a City Slum in Northern India 
Context: Adolescent health is a relatively new focus area of India’s National health program. However, little evidence is available for the existing problems especially in adolescent slum population. A study was planned to explore the problems of adolescent pertaining to sexuality, physical health, tobacco and alcohol use in slums of Urban Meerut, and create evidence base for informed planning and decision making by the local health authorities.
Aims: To study the adolescent health in the slums of Meerut City, India.
Settings and Design: Entire slums of Urban Meerut, cross-sectional study.
Materials and Methods: Study was done in the slums of Meerut city, in Northern India. WHO 30 cluster sampling technique was used. Thirty slums were selected from the list of all the slums of Meerut, 210 adolescents were selected with 7 adolescents from each slum.
Statistical Analysis: Proportions and Chi-square test.
Results: More than one third of the (36.7%) adolescents reported to have a current health problem, however only half of these sought medical help for treatment. Tweleve percent of adolescents reported history of alcohol or tobacoo use. Nine percent adolescents complained of stressful atmosphere at home. About 10% adolescents in the surveyed population gave history of sexual activity, but only one third of them had used condom during their last sexual intercourse.
Conclusion: This study reflects the high morbidity and poor treatment seeking behaviour among adolescents in urban slums. A significant proportion of adolescents indulge in high risk sexual behavior, tobacco and alcohol use. There were significant gender differences with regards to treatment seeking behaviour, sexual behaviour, tobacco and alcohol use. The gender nuances must be taken into account while planning interventions for this section of population.
PMCID: PMC4190744  PMID: 25302222
Adolescents; Sexual behaviour; Slums; Tobacco alcohol
19.  Women’s perceptions and reflections of male partners and couple dynamics in family planning adoption in selected urban slums in Nigeria: a qualitative exploration 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):869.
Nigeria is one of the countries where significant progress has not been recorded in contraceptive uptake despite decades of family planning programs while there are indications that slum dwellers may differ significantly from other urban dwellers in their sexual and reproductive behavior, including family planning uptake. This study therefore examined local notions regarding male partners’ involvement in family planning (FP) adoption by women in two selected urban slums areas in Nigeria – Ibadan (Southwest region) and Kaduna (Northwest region). Specifically, the study investigated women’s narratives about FP, perceived barriers from male partners regarding FP adoption by the women and how women negotiate male partners' cooperation for FP use.
Sixteen FGD sessions were conducted with selected groups of men and women, stratified by sex, age group, and FP experience using a vignette to generate discussions. Sessions were facilitated by experienced social scientists and audio-taped, with note-taker also present. The transcribed data were analyzed with Atlas.ti software version 7. Inductive approach was employed to analyze the data. Reasons given for FP attitudes and use are presented in a network format while critical discourse analysis was also used in generating relevant tables.
The finding shows that women in the selected communities expressed desire for FP adoption. Three main reasons largely accounted for the desire to use FP: perceived need to space childbirth, family’s financial condition and the potential adverse effect of high fertility on the woman’s health. Male partners’ support for the use of FP by women was perceived to be low, which is due to misconceptions about FP and traditional pro-natalistic beliefs and tendencies. Mechanisms by which women negotiate their male-partner’s cooperation for FP adoption include seeking the support of the partner’s significant others and advice from older women.
To significantly improve family planning adoption rates among urban slum dwellers in Nigeria, there is the need to specifically and specially target men alongside their female partners as well as other stakeholders who have significant influences at family and community level.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-869) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4165936  PMID: 25148699
Male Partners; Family Planning; Nigeria; Urban Slums
20.  Changes in the selected reproductive health indicators among married women of reproductive age in low performing areas of Bangladesh: findings from an evaluation study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:478.
Three-year duration Demand-Based Reproductive Commodity Project (DBRHCP) was launched in three low performing areas: rural Nabiganj (population 323,357), Raipur (population 260,983) and urban slum in Dhaka (population 141,912). Objectives: Assessing changes in knowledge among married women of reproductive age on selected reproductive health issues and to explore their service utilization patterns over the project period in selected low performing areas of Bangladesh.
The study adopted a pre- posts design. In the project areas, the entire chain of service provision were modified through the interventions under the DBRHCP, including training of the providers, enhanced behavioral change communication activities, follow-up and counseling, record keeping, reporting and monitoring, as well as improvement in logistics and supplies. Peer promoters were established as linkages between clients and service providers. All households were enlisted. Baseline and end line surveys were done using representative simple random sampling method, capturing changes over one year intervention period. Descriptive analysis was done using SPSS package, version 10. Proportional tests using Stata, version 8 were done to assess changes from baseline to end line.
The overall contraceptive prevalence was markedly different in the three study areas but significantly increased in both Dhaka urban slums and Nabiganj. In the rural areas, a higher proportion of the women in endline compared to baseline obtained contraceptive methods from the public sectors. Irrespective of study sites, significantly higher proportion of women received ANC (Antenatal Care) and PNC (Post natal care) in endline compared to baseline. In all study sites higher proportions of women were aware of maternal complications at endline. Services were obtained from qualified persons for reported symptoms of sexually transmitted infections by a higher proportion of women at endline compared to baseline. There were improvements in other RH indicators, such as use of skilled birth attendants and overall utilization of health care facilities by women.
The improvements in several important RH indicators in the intervention areas suggest that the interventions affected selected outcomes reported in the study. The study findings also suggest that investment in the reproductive health sector, particularly in existing government programs, improves RH outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4037281  PMID: 24886357
Reproductive health; Married women; ANC; CPR; Family planning; Awareness; RTI/STI; Pregnancy complications; Bangladesh
21.  Childhood Conditions Influence Adult Progesterone Levels 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(5):e167.
Average profiles of salivary progesterone in women vary significantly at the inter- and intrapopulation level as a function of age and acute energetic conditions related to energy intake, energy expenditure, or a combination of both. In addition to acute stressors, baseline progesterone levels differ among populations. The causes of such chronic differences are not well understood, but it has been hypothesised that they may result from varying tempos of growth and maturation and, by implication, from diverse environmental conditions encountered during childhood and adolescence.
Methods and Findings
To test this hypothesis, we conducted a migrant study among first- and second-generation Bangladeshi women aged 19–39 who migrated to London, UK at different points in the life-course, women still resident in Bangladesh, and women of European descent living in neighbourhoods similar to those of the migrants in London (total n = 227). Data collected included saliva samples for radioimmunoassay of progesterone, anthropometrics, and information from questionnaires on diet, lifestyle, and health. Results from multiple linear regression, controlled for anthropometric and reproductive variables, show that women who spend their childhood in conditions of low energy expenditure, stable energy intake, good sanitation, low immune challenges, and good health care in the UK have up to 103% higher levels of salivary progesterone and an earlier maturation than women who develop in less optimal conditions in Sylhet, Bangladesh (F9,178 = 5.05, p < 0.001, standard error of the mean = 0.32; adjusted R2 = 0.16). Our results point to the period prior to puberty as a sensitive phase when changes in environmental conditions positively impact developmental tempos such as menarcheal age (F2,81 = 3.21, p = 0.03) and patterns of ovarian function as measured using salivary progesterone (F2,81 = 3.14, p = 0.04).
This research demonstrates that human females use an extended period of the life cycle prior to reproductive maturation to monitor their environment and to modulate reproductive steroid levels in accordance with projected conditions they might encounter as adults. Given the prolonged investment of human pregnancy and lactation, such plasticity (extending beyond any intrauterine programming) enables a more flexible and finely tuned adjustment to the potential constraints or opportunities of the later adult environment. This research is the first, to our knowledge, to demonstrate a postuterine developmental component to variation in reproductive steroid levels in women.
Alejandra Núñez-de la Mora and colleagues found that women of Bangladeshi origin who had spent their childhood in the UK had higher progesterone levels and matured earlier than those who had been children in Bangladesh.
Editors' Summary
Women's reproductive biology—which includes levels of sex hormones at different stages of the menstrual cycle—is known to vary greatly depending on the environment. This variation can be measured by looking at the levels of certain reproductive hormones in the saliva, for example, progesterone and estradiol. The levels of these hormones differ greatly from individual to individual. Women who live in environments where less food is available or infections are more common, or who do more physical work seem to have lower levels of these hormones compared to other women. Because these differences seem to persist over the long term, some researchers have suggested that various factors relating to an individual's environment early in life have a strong influence on later fertility. This theory is based on ideas drawn from evolutionary biology and ecology. Theoretically, a woman who limits her future fertility as a biological response to poor environments would eventually have greater evolutionary success than an individual who remains fertile in harsh conditions. Although the logical basis for this idea is attractive, there is not very much evidence that it is true.
Why Was This Study Done?
In this study, the researchers wanted to collect experimental evidence from human populations that would help them test the hypothesis outlined above. The study performed here made use of a “natural experiment” resulting from widespread migration of people from Bangladesh to the UK. 95% of these individuals come from one particular region of Bangladesh, Sylhet. People would experience extensive differences between the environments before and after migration, including economic factors, access to health services, exposure to infectious diseases, and so on. Therefore, a comparison of hormone levels between individuals who had migrated at different periods during their life might help to test the theory that early environmental factors affect later fertility.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Five groups of women were selected and compared in this study. The groups included women who had grown up in Bangladesh but moved to the UK as adults; women who were born in Bangladesh but moved to the UK as children; women whose parents were from Bangladesh but who were born and raised in the UK; Bangladeshi women who were born and raised in Bangladesh; and finally a comparison group of women of European descent who were born and raised in the UK. Each woman in each of the five groups was asked to collect a sample of her own saliva each day for one menstrual cycle. The researchers tested the saliva samples to find out the levels of progesterone. The average progesterone level for the last 14 days of each woman's menstrual cycle (when progesterone levels are generally high) was then calculated and these values compared across the five groups. In particular, the researchers looked at the relationship between the age at which an individual arrived in the UK, the time spent in the UK, and the progesterone levels in saliva.
The researchers found statistically significant differences in progesterone levels between individuals who had migrated as children, second-generation migrants, and women of European descent, as compared to the levels for Bangladeshi women who had never migrated and women who migrated as adults. Progesterone levels for the first three groups were higher than those for the Bangladeshi women who had not migrated or who had migrated as adults. The age at which women migrated also seemed to be linked to their progesterone levels. Amongst women who migrated before the start of menstruation, those who migrated at a younger age had higher average progesterone levels. However, this relationship did not seem to hold true for women who had migrated after they started menstruating.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This study suggests that certain indicators of reproductive biology, such as progesterone levels, may be linked to environmental factors that an individual experiences early in life. The findings support the idea that harsh environments early in development are associated with lower fertility later in life. However, it is not clear from this study which precise environmental factors are involved; it is possible that exposure to infectious disease is important, but this possibility was not specifically tested in this research study. Finally, it is not certain whether the lower average progesterone levels of the particular groups studied would actually translate into lower fertility. It is possible that although certain individuals and groups had lower levels of this hormone, they may in fact have been as fertile as individuals with higher levels of the hormone.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Information from the US National Institutes of Health on fertility and infertility
Wikipedia entry on progesterone (Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia anyone can edit)
Resources from the World Health Organization about sexual and reproductive health, including links to resources on family planning, infertility, and other related topics
World Health Organization country site for Bangladesh, providing key statistics and health resources
Moving Here: stories and experiences told of individuals' emigration to the UK
PMCID: PMC1868040  PMID: 17503960
22.  Invest in adolescents and young people: it pays 
Reproductive Health  2013;10:51.
This year’s Women Deliver conference made a strong call for investing in the health and development of adolescents and young people. It highlighted the unique problems faced by adolescent girls and young women–some of the most vulnerable and neglected individuals in the world–and stressed the importance of addressing their needs and rights, not only for their individual benefit, but also to achieve global goals such as reducing maternal mortality and HIV infection.
In response to an invitation from the editors of Reproductive Health, we-the sixteen coauthors of this commentary–put together key themes that reverberated throughout the conference, on the health and development needs of adolescents and young people, and promising solutions to meet them.
1. Investing in adolescents and young people is crucial for ensuring health, creating prosperity and fulfilling human rights.
2. Gender inequality contributes to many health and social problems. Adolescent girls and boys, and their families and communities, should be challenged and supported to change inequitable gender norms.
– Child marriage utterly disempowers girls. It is one of the most devastating manifestations of gender discrimination.
– Negative social and cultural attitudes towards menstruation constrain the lives of millions of girls. This may well establish the foundation for lifelong discomfort felt by girls about their bodies and reticence in seeking help when problems arise.
3. Adolescents need comprehensive, accurate and developmentally appropriate sexuality education. This will provide the bedrock for attitude formation and decision making.
4. Adolescent-centered health services can prevent sexual and reproductive health problems and detect and treat them if and when they occur.
5. National governments have the authority and the responsibility to address social and cultural barriers to the provision of sexual and reproductive health education and services for adolescents and young people.
6. Adolescents should be involved more meaningfully in national and local actions intended to meet their needs and respond to their problems.
7. The time to act is now. We know more now than ever before about the health and development needs of adolescents and young people, as well as the solutions to meeting those needs.
PMCID: PMC3850160  PMID: 24041149
23.  Overview of migration, poverty and health dynamics in Nairobi City's slum settlements 
The Urbanization, Poverty, and Health Dynamics research program was designed to generate and provide the evidence base that would help governments, development partners, and other stakeholders understand how the urban slum context affects health outcomes in order to stimulate policy and action for uplifting the wellbeing of slum residents. The program was nested into the Nairobi Urban Health and Demographic Surveillance System, a uniquely rich longitudinal research platform, set up in Korogocho and Viwandani slum settlements in Nairobi city, Kenya. Findings provide rich insights on the context in which slum dwellers live and how poverty and migration status interacts with health issues over the life course. Contrary to popular opinions and beliefs that see slums as homogenous residential entities, the findings paint a picture of a highly dynamic and heterogeneous setting. While slum populations are highly mobile, about half of the population comprises relatively well doing long-term dwellers who have lived in slum settlements for over 10 years. The poor health outcomes that slum residents exhibit at all stages of the life course are rooted in three key characteristics of slum settlements: poor environmental conditions and infrastructure; limited access to services due to lack of income to pay for treatment and preventive services; and reliance on poor quality and mostly informal and unregulated health services that are not well suited to meeting the unique realities and health needs of slum dwellers. Consequently, policies and programs aimed at improving the wellbeing of slum dwellers should address comprehensively the underlying structural, economic, behavioral, and service-oriented barriers to good health and productive lives among slum residents.
PMCID: PMC3132239  PMID: 21713552
Urbanisation, poverty, health dynamics; Urban slum; Korogocho, Viwandani; Nairobi, Kenya
24.  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.
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.
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
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
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
PMCID: PMC3551970  PMID: 23349622
25.  Impact of Community-Based Maternal Health Workers on Coverage of Essential Maternal Health Interventions among Internally Displaced Communities in Eastern Burma: The MOM Project 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000317.
Mullany and colleagues report outcomes from a project involving delivery of community-based maternal health services in eastern Burma, and report substantial increases in coverage of care.
Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care is poor throughout Burma, but is particularly lacking among internally displaced communities in the eastern border regions. In such settings, innovative strategies for accessing vulnerable populations and delivering basic public health interventions are urgently needed.
Four ethnic health organizations from the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions collaborated on a pilot project between 2005 and 2008 to examine the feasibility of an innovative three-tiered network of community-based providers for delivery of maternal health interventions in the complex emergency setting of eastern Burma. Two-stage cluster-sampling surveys among ever-married women of reproductive age (15–45 y) conducted before and after program implementation enabled evaluation of changes in coverage of essential antenatal care interventions, attendance at birth by those trained to manage complications, postnatal care, and family planning services.
Among 2,889 and 2,442 women of reproductive age in 2006 and 2008, respectively, population characteristics (age, marital status, ethnic distribution, literacy) were similar. Compared to baseline, women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period were substantially more likely to receive antenatal care (71.8% versus 39.3%, prevalence rate ratio [PRR] = 1.83 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.64–2.04]) and specific interventions such as urine testing (42.4% versus 15.7%, PRR = 2.69 [95% CI 2.69–3.54]), malaria screening (55.9% versus 21.9%, PRR = 2.88 [95% CI 2.15–3.85]), and deworming (58.2% versus 4.1%, PRR = 14.18 [95% CI 10.76–18.71]. Postnatal care visits within 7 d doubled. Use of modern methods to avoid pregnancy increased from 23.9% to 45.0% (PRR = 1.88 [95% CI 1.63–2.17]), and unmet need for contraception was reduced from 61.7% to 40.5%, a relative reduction of 35% (95% CI 28%–40%). Attendance at birth by those trained to deliver elements of emergency obstetric care increased almost 10-fold, from 5.1% to 48.7% (PRR = 9.55 [95% CI 7.21–12.64]).
Coverage of maternal health interventions and higher-level care at birth was substantially higher during the project period. The MOM Project's focus on task-shifting, capacity building, and empowerment at the community level might serve as a model approach for similarly constrained settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Every minute, somewhere in the world, a woman dies of complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Access to essential maternal and reproductive health care (including family planning) is particularly bad in war-torn countries. In Burma, for example, where there have been decades of conflict between the military junta and ethnic minority resistance groups, the maternal mortality rate (the number of deaths among women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births) is around 380, whereas in neighboring Thailand it is only 44. Maternal health is even worse in the Shan, Mon, Karen, and Karenni regions of eastern Burma where ethnic conflicts and enforced village relocations have internally displaced more than half a million people. Here, the maternal mortality rate is around 1,200. In an effort to improve access to maternal health services in these regions, community-based organizations in Burma, the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights, and the Global Health Access Program undertook an innovative pilot project—the Mobile Obstetric Medics (MOM) project—between 2005 and 2008. Local health workers from 12 communities in eastern Burma received training in antenatal care, obstetrics (the care of women during childbirth), postnatal care, and family planning at the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand. These “maternal health workers” then returned to Burma where they trained local health workers and traditional birth attendants to provide maternal health care to their communities.
Why Was This Study Done?
Before the MOM project started, nearly 3,000 women living in the study communities were surveyed to evaluate the coverage of essential antenatal care interventions such as urine testing for infections during pregnancy, screening for malaria, and deworming; Urinary tract infections, malaria, and hookworm infections all increase the risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. The preproject survey also evaluated how many births were attended by people able to deal with complications, and the provision of postnatal care and family planning services. In this study, the researchers undertake a similar postproject survey to evaluate the impact of MOM on the coverage of essential maternal health interventions among internally displaced communities in eastern Burma.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2008 and December 2008, trained survey workers asked nearly 2,500 ever-married women of reproductive age from the project's study communities about their access to antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendants, and family planning. The results of the postproject survey were then compared with those of the “baseline,” preproject survey. The general characteristics (age, marital status, ethnicity, and literacy) of the women included in the two surveys were very similar. However, 71.8% of the women whose most recent pregnancy occurred during the implementation period of the MOM project had received antenatal care compared to only 39.3% of women surveyed at baseline. Similarly, among the women questioned during the postproject survey, 42.4% had had their urine tested and 55.9% had been screened for malaria during pregnancy compared to only 15.7% and 21.9%, respectively, of the women questioned in the preproject survey. Deworming had increased from 4.1% to 58.2% during the project, postnatal care visits within 7 days had doubled, and attendance at birth by people trained to deal with obstetric emergencies had increased 10-fold from 5.1% to 48.7%. Finally, the use of modern contraception methods (slow-release contraceptives, oral contraceptives, and condoms) had increased from 23.9% to 45.0%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings reveal a substantial improvement in access to maternal and reproductive health care in the study communities during the MOM project. However, because the study compared two independent groups of women before and after implementation of the MOM project rather than concurrently comparing groups of women who did and did not receive the services provided by the MOM project, this study does not prove that the MOM approach was the cause of the changes in the coverage of essential maternal health care. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that the type of approach used in the MOM project—the expansion of interventions (including components of emergency obstetric care) delivered outside healthcare facilities by community-based providers—might be an effective way to deliver maternal and reproductive health services in other parts of Burma and in other places where there are ongoing conflicts.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
More information about the MOM project is available in previous publications by the researchers in PLoS Medicine, in Reproductive Health Matters, and in Social Science and Medicine
Additional resources are also available on the MOM Project
The Reproductive Health Response in Conflict Consortium provides information on how conflicts affect reproductive health
The World Health Organization provides information on all aspects of health in Burma (in several languages)
The Mae Tao clinic also provides general information about Burma and its health services
The Burma Campaign UK and Human Rights Watch both provide detailed information about human rights violations, including those that affect maternal health in Burma
The United Nations Population Fund provides information about safe motherhood and maternal and reproductive health during conflicts and among refugees (in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805

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