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1.  The Influence of Distance and Level of Care on Delivery Place in Rural Zambia: A Study of Linked National Data in a Geographic Information System 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000394.
Using linked national data in a geographic information system system, Sabine Gabrysch and colleagues investigate the effects of distance to care and level of care on women's use of health facilities for delivery in rural Zambia.
Background
Maternal and perinatal mortality could be reduced if all women delivered in settings where skilled attendants could provide emergency obstetric care (EmOC) if complications arise. Research on determinants of skilled attendance at delivery has focussed on household and individual factors, neglecting the influence of the health service environment, in part due to a lack of suitable data. The aim of this study was to quantify the effects of distance to care and level of care on women's use of health facilities for delivery in rural Zambia, and to compare their population impact to that of other important determinants.
Methods and Findings
Using a geographic information system (GIS), we linked national household data from the Zambian Demographic and Health Survey 2007 with national facility data from the Zambian Health Facility Census 2005 and calculated straight-line distances. Health facilities were classified by whether they provided comprehensive EmOC (CEmOC), basic EmOC (BEmOC), or limited or substandard services. Multivariable multilevel logistic regression analyses were performed to investigate the influence of distance to care and level of care on place of delivery (facility or home) for 3,682 rural births, controlling for a wide range of confounders. Only a third of rural Zambian births occurred at a health facility, and half of all births were to mothers living more than 25 km from a facility of BEmOC standard or better. As distance to the closest health facility doubled, the odds of facility delivery decreased by 29% (95% CI, 14%–40%). Independently, each step increase in level of care led to 26% higher odds of facility delivery (95% CI, 7%–48%). The population impact of poor geographic access to EmOC was at least of similar magnitude as that of low maternal education, household poverty, or lack of female autonomy.
Conclusions
Lack of geographic access to emergency obstetric care is a key factor explaining why most rural deliveries in Zambia still occur at home without skilled care. Addressing geographic and quality barriers is crucial to increase service use and to lower maternal and perinatal mortality. Linking datasets using GIS has great potential for future research and can help overcome the neglect of health system factors in research and policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Approximately 360,000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth, of which more than 200,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, where a woman's lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy remains as high as 1 in 31 (compared to 1 in 4,300 in the developed world). The target of Millennium Development Goal 5 is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters by 2015. Most maternal and neonatal deaths in low-income countries could be prevented if all women delivered their babies in settings where skilled birth attendants (such as midwives) were available and could provide emergency obstetric care to both mothers and babies in case of complications. Yet every year roughly 50 million women give birth at home without skilled care.
Why was this study done?
The likelihood of a woman giving birth in a health facility under the care of a skilled birth attendant depends on many factors. These include characteristics of the mother and her family, such as education level and household wealth, and aspects of the health service environment—distance to the nearest health facility and the quality of care provided at that facility, for example. However, research to date has typically focused on household and individual factors, neglecting the influence of the health service environment on choice of delivery place, largely because suitable data was not available. In this study in rural Zambia, the researchers aimed to quantify the effects of the health service environment, namely distance to health care and the level of care provided, on pregnant women's use of health facilities for giving birth. To put these factors in context, the researchers compared the impact of distance to quality care on place of delivery to that of other important factors, such as poverty and education.
What did the researchers do and find?
Using a geographic information system (GIS), the researchers linked national household data (from the 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey) with national facility data (from the 2005 Zambian Health Facility Census) and calculated straight-line distances between women's villages and health facilities. Health facilities were classified as providing comprehensive emergency obstetric care, basic emergency obstetric care, or limited or substandard services by using reported capability to perform a certain number of the eight emergency obstetric care signal functions: injectable antibiotics, injectable oxytocics, injectable anticonvulsants, manual removal of placenta, manual removal of retained products, assisted vaginal delivery, cesarean section, and blood transfusion, as well as criteria on staffing, opening hours and referral capacity. The researchers used data from 3,682 rural births and multivariable multilevel logistic regression analyses to investigate whether distance to, and level of care at the closest delivery facility influence place of delivery (health facility or home), keeping other influential factors constant.
The researchers found that only a third of births in rural Zambia occurred at a health facility, and half of all mothers who gave birth lived more than 25 km from a health facility that provided basic emergency obstetric services. As distance to the closest health facility doubled, the odds of a women giving birth in a health facility decreased by 29%. Independently, each step increase in the level of emergency obstetric care provided at the closest delivery facility led to an increased likelihood (26% higher odds) of a woman delivering her baby at a facility. The researchers estimated that the impact of poor geographic access to emergency obstetric services was of similar magnitude as that of low maternal education, household poverty, or lack of female autonomy.
What do these findings mean?
The results of this study suggest that poor geographic access to emergency obstetric care is a key factor in explaining why most women in rural Zambia still deliver their babies at home without skilled care. Therefore, in order to increase the number of women delivering in health facilities and thus reduce maternal and neonatal mortality, it is crucial to address the geographic and quality barriers to delivery service use. Furthermore, the methodology used in this study—linking datasets using GIS— has great potential for future research as it can help explore the influence of health system factors also for other health problems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000394.
Information about emergency obstetric care is provided by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Various topics on maternal health are presented by WHO, WHO Regional Office Africa, by UNPFA, and UNICEF
WHO offers detailed information about MDG5
Family Care International offers more information about maternal and neonatal health
The Averting Maternal Death and Disability program (AMDD) provides information on needs assessments of emergency obstetric and newborn care
Countdown to 2015 tracks progress in maternal, newborn, and child survival
WHO provides free online viewing of BBC Fight for Life videos describing delivery experiences in different countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000394
PMCID: PMC3026699  PMID: 21283606
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Effect of an innovative community based health program on maternal health service utilization in north and south central Ethiopia: a community based cross sectional study 
Reproductive Health  2014;11:28.
Background
Among Millennium Development Goals, achieving the fifth goal (MDG-5) of reducing maternal mortality poses the greatest challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world with unacceptably low maternal health service utilization. The Government of Ethiopia introduced an innovative community-based intervention as a national strategy under the Health Sector Development Program. This new approach, known as the Health Extension Program, aims to improve access to and equity in essential health services through community based Health Extension Workers.
Objective
The objective of the study is to assess the role of Health Extension Workers in improving women’s utilization of antenatal care, delivery at health facility and postnatal care services.
Methods
A cross sectional household survey was conducted in early 2012 in two districts of northern and south central parts of Ethiopia. Data were collected from 4949 women who had delivered in the two years preceding the survey. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine the association between visit by Health Extension Workers during pregnancy and use of maternal health services, controlling for the effect of other confounding factors.
Results
The non–adjusted analysis showed that antenatal care attendance at least four times during pregnancy was significantly associated with visit by Health Extension Workers [Odds Ratio 3.46(95% CI 3.07,3.91)], whereas health facility delivery (skilled attendance at birth) was not significantly associated with visit by Health Extension Workers during pregnancy [Odds Ratio 0.87(95% CI 0.25,2.96)]. When adjusted for other factors the association of HEWs visit during pregnancy was weaker for antenatal care attendance [Adjusted Odds Ratio: 1.35(95% CI: 1.05, 1.72)] but positively and significantly associated with health facility delivery [Adjusted Odds Ratio 1.96(1.25,3.06)].
Conclusion
In general HEWs visit during pregnancy improved utilization of maternal health services. Health facility delivery is heavily affected by other factors. Meaningful improvement in skilled attendance at birth (health facility delivery) should include addressing other factors on top of visits by HEWs during pregnancy and specific target oriented interventions during visits by HEWs to support skilled attendance at birth.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-11-28
PMCID: PMC4041359  PMID: 24708848
Skilled attendance at birth; Community based health programs; Health facility delivery; Antenatal care; Health Extension Worker; Ethiopia
5.  Public-sector Maternal Health Programmes and Services for Rural Bangladesh 
Achieving Millennium Development Goal 5 in Bangladesh calls for an appreciation of the evolution of maternal healthcare within the national health system to date plus a projection of future needs. This paper assesses the development of maternal health services and policies by reviewing policy and strategy documents since the independence in 1971, with primary focus on rural areas where three-fourths of the total population of Bangladesh reside. Projections of need for facilities and human resources are based on the recommended standards of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1996 and 2005. Although maternal healthcare services are delivered from for-profit and not-for-profit (NGO) subsectors, this paper is focused on maternal healthcare delivery by public subsector. Maternal healthcare services in the public sector of Bangladesh have been guided by global policies (e.g. Health for All by the Year 2000), national policies (e.g. population and health policy), and plans (e.g. five- or three-yearly). The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), through its two wings—Health Services and Family Planning—sets policies, develops implementation plans, and provides rural public-health services. Since 1971, the health infrastructure has developed though not in a uniform pattern and despite policy shifts over time. Under the Family Planning wing of the MoHFW, the number of Maternal and Child Welfare Centres has not increased but new services, such as caesarean-section surgery, have been integrated. The Health Services wing of the MoHFW has ensured that all district-level public-health facilities, e.g. district hospitals and medical colleges, can provide comprehensive essential obstetric care (EOC) and have targeted to upgrade 132 of 407 rural Upazila Health Complexes to also provide such services. In 2001, they initiated a programme to train the Government's community workers (Family Welfare Assistants and Female Health Assistants) to provide skilled birthing care in the home. However, these plans have been too meagre, and their implementation is too weak to fulfill expectations in terms of the MDG 5 indicator—increased use of skilled birth attendants, especially for poor rural women. The use of skilled birth attendants, institutional deliveries, and use of caesarean section remain low and are increasing only slowly. All these indicators are substantially lower for those in the lower three socioeconomic quintiles. A wide variation exists in the availability of comprehensive EOC facilities in the public sector among the six divisions of the country. Rajshahi division has more facilities than the WHO 1996 standard (1 comprehensive EOC for 500,000 people) whereas Chittagong and Sylhet divisions have only 64% of their need for comprehensive EOC facilities. The WHO 2005 recommendation (1 comprehensive EOC for 3,500 births) suggests that there is a need for nearly five times the existing national number of comprehensive EOC facilities. Based on the WHO standard 2005, it is estimated that 9% of existing doctors and 40% of nurses/midwives were needed just for maternal healthcare in both comprehensive EOC and basic EOC facilities in 2007. While the inability to train and retain skilled professionals in rural areas is the major problem in implementation, the bifurcation of the MoHFW (Health Services and Family Planning wings) has led to duplication in management and staff for service-delivery, inefficiencies as a result of these duplications, and difficulties of coordination at all levels. The Government of Bangladesh needs to functionally integrate the Health Services and Family Planning wings, move towards a facility-based approach to delivery, ensure access to key maternal health services for women in the lower socioeconomic quintiles, consider infrastructure development based on the estimation of facilities using the WHO 1996 recommendation, and undertake a human resource-development plan based on the WHO 2005 recommendation.
PMCID: PMC2761780  PMID: 19489411
Maternal health; Maternal health services; Rural health services; Bangladesh
6.  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.
Background
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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]).
Conclusions
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
Background
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317.
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)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000317
PMCID: PMC2914639  PMID: 20689805
7.  Knowledge of safe motherhood among women in rural communities in northern Nigeria: implications for maternal mortality reduction 
Reproductive Health  2013;10:57.
Background
Most developed countries have made considerable progress in addressing maternal mortality, but it appears that countries with high maternal mortality burdens like Nigeria have made little progress in improving maternal health outcomes despite emphasis by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Knowledge about safe motherhood practices could help reduce pregnancy related health risks. This study examines knowledge of safe motherhood among women in selected rural communities in northern Nigeria.
Methods
This was a cross-sectional study carried out in two states (Kaduna and Kano States) within northern Nigeria. Pretested, interviewer-administered questionnaires were applied by female data collectors to 540 randomly selected women who had recently delivered within the study site. Chi-square tests were used to determine possible association between variables during bivariate analysis. Variables significant in the bivariate analysis were subsequently entered into a multivariate logistic regression analysis. The degree of association was estimated by odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CI) between knowledge of maternal danger signs and independent socio-demographic as well as obstetric history variables which indicated significance at p< 0.05.
Results
Over 90% of respondents in both states showed poor knowledge of the benefits of health facility delivery by a skilled birth attendant. More than 80% of respondents in both states displayed poor knowledge of the benefits of ANC visits. More than half of the respondents across both states had poor knowledge of maternal danger signs. According to multivariate regression analysis, ever attending school by a respondent increased the likelihood of knowing maternal danger signs by threefold (OR 2.63, 95% CI: 1.2-5.8) among respondents in Kaduna State. While attendance at ANC visits during most recent pregnancy increased the likelihood of knowing maternal danger signs by twofold among respondents in Kano State (OR 2.05, 95% CI: 1.1-3.9) and threefold among respondents in Kaduna State (OR 3.33, 95% CI: 1.6-7.2).
Conclusion
This study found generally poor knowledge about safe motherhood practices among female respondents within selected rural communities in northern Nigeria. Knowledge of safe pregnancy practices among some women in rural communities is strongly associated with attendance at ANC visits, being employed or acquiring some level of education. Increasing knowledge about safe motherhood practices should translate into safer pregnancy outcomes and subsequently lead to lower maternal mortality across the developing world.
doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-57
PMCID: PMC4176136  PMID: 24160692
Safe motherhood; Maternal mortality; Millennium Development Goals; Northern Nigeria
8.  Institutional delivery service utilization and associated factors among mothers who gave birth in the last 12 months in Sekela District, North West of Ethiopia: A community - based cross sectional study 
Background
Reduction of maternal mortality is a global priority particularly in developing countries including Ethiopia where maternal mortality ratio is one of the highest in the world. The key to reducing maternal mortality ratio and improving maternal health is increasing attendance by skilled health personnel throughout pregnancy and delivery. However, delivery service is significantly lower in Amhara Regional State, Ethiopia. Therefore, this study aimed to assess factors affecting institutional delivery service utilization among mothers who gave birth in the last 12 months in Sekela District, Amhara Region, Ethiopia.
Methods
Community-based cross-sectional study was conducted among mothers with birth in the last 12 months during August, 2010. Multistage sampling technique was used to select 371 participants. A pre tested and structured questionnaire was used to collect data. Bivariate and multivariate data analysis was performed using SPSS version 16.0 software.
Results
The study indicated that 12.1% of the mothers delivered in health facilities. Of 87.9% mothers who gave birth at home, 80.0% of them were assisted by family members and relatives. The common reasons for home delivery were closer attention from family members and relatives (60.9%), home delivery is usual practice (57.7%), unexpected labour (33.4%), not being sick or no problem at the time of delivery (21.6%) and family influence (14.4%). Being urban resident (AOR [95% CI] = 4.6 [1.91, 10.9]), ANC visit during last pregnancy (AOR [95% CI] = 4.26 [1.1, 16.4]), maternal education level (AOR [95%CI] =11.98 [3.36, 41.4]) and knowledge of mothers on pregnancy and delivery services (AOR [95% CI] = 2.97[1.1, 8.6]) had significant associations with institutional delivery service utilization.
Conclusions
Very low institutional delivery service utilization was observed in the study area. Majority of the births at home were assisted by family members and relatives. ANC visit and lack of knowledge on pregnancy and delivery services were found to be associated with delivery service utilization. Strategies with focus on increasing ANC uptake and building knowledge of the mothers and their partners would help to increase utilization of the service. Training and assigning skilled attendants at Health Posta level to provide skilled home delivery would improve utilization of the service.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-74
PMCID: PMC3449175  PMID: 22849421
Institutional delivery service utilization; Preferred place of delivery; Sekela District
9.  Inequities in skilled attendance at birth in Namibia: A decomposition analysis 
Background
The fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG5) aims at improving maternal health. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined from 400 to 260 per 100000 live births between 1990 and 2008. During the same period, MMR in sub-Saharan Africa decreased from 870 to 640. The decreased in MMR has been attributed to increase in the proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel. Global improvements maternal health and health service provision indicators mask inequalities both between and within countries. In Namibia, there are significant inequities in births attended by skilled providers that favour those that are economically better off. The objective of this study was to identify the drivers of wealth-related inequalities in child delivery by skilled health providers.
Methods
Namibia Demographic and Health Survey data of 2006-07 are analysed for the causes of inequities in skilled birth attendance using a decomposable health concentration index and the framework of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
Results
About 80.3% of the deliveries were attended by skilled health providers. Skilled birth attendance in the richest quintile is about 70% more than that of the poorest quintile. The rate of skilled attendance among educated women is almost twice that of women with no education. Furthermore, women in urban areas access the services of trained birth attendant 30% more than those in rural areas. Use of skilled birth attendants is over 90% in Erongo, Hardap, Karas and Khomas Regions, while the lowest (about 60-70%) is seen in Kavango, Kunene and Ohangwena. The concentration curve and concentration index show statistically significant wealth-related inequalities in delivery by skilled providers that are to the advantage of women from economically better off households (C = 0.0979; P < 0.001).
Delivery by skilled health provider by various maternal and household characteristics was 21 percentage points higher in urban than rural areas; 39 percentage points higher among those in richest wealth quintile than the poorest; 47 percentage points higher among mothers with higher level of education than those with no education; 5 percentage points higher among female headed households than those headed by men; 20 percentage points higher among people with health insurance cover than those without; and 31 percentage points higher in Karas region than Kavango region.
Conclusion
Inequalities in wealth and education of the mother are seen to be the main drivers of inequities in the percentage of births attended by skilled health personnel. This clearly implies that addressing inequalities in access to child delivery services should not be confined to the health system and that a concerted multi-sectoral action is needed in line with the principles of the Primary health Care.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-11-34
PMCID: PMC3118957  PMID: 21569585
10.  Access To Essential Maternal Health Interventions and Human Rights Violations among Vulnerable Communities in Eastern Burma 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(12):e242.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background.
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242.
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050242
PMCID: PMC2605890  PMID: 19108601
11.  Delivery Practices and Associated Factors among Mothers Seeking Child Welfare Services in Selected Health Facilities in Nyandarua South District, Kenya 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:360.
Background
A measure of the proportion of deliveries assisted by skilled attendants is one of the indicators of progress towards achieving Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, which aims at improving maternal health. This study aimed at establishing delivery practices and associated factors among mothers seeking child welfare services at selected health facilities in Nyandarua South district, Kenya to determine whether mothers were receiving appropriate delivery care.
Methods
A hospital-based cross-sectional survey among women who had recently delivered while in the study area was carried out between August and October 2009. Binary Logistic regression was used to identify factors that predicted mothers' delivery practice.
Results
Among the 409 mothers who participated in the study, 1170 deliveries were reported. Of all the deliveries reported, 51.8% were attended by unskilled birth attendants. Among the deliveries attended by unskilled birth attendants, 38.6% (452/1170) were by neighbors and/or relatives. Traditional Birth Attendants attended 1.5% (17/1170) of the deliveries while in 11.7% (137/1170) of the deliveries were self administered. Mothers who had unskilled birth attendance were more likely to have <3 years of education (Adjusted Odds ratio [AOR] 19.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.7 - 212.8) and with more than three deliveries in a life time (AOR 3.8, 95% CI 2.3 - 6.4). Mothers with perceived similarity in delivery attendance among skilled and unskilled delivery attendants were associated with unsafe delivery practice (AOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1 - 3.4). Mother's with lower knowledge score on safe delivery (%) were more likely to have unskilled delivery attendance (AOR 36.5, 95% CI 4.3 - 309.3).
Conclusion
Among the mothers interviewed, utilization of skilled delivery attendance services was still low with a high number of deliveries being attended by unqualified lay persons. There is need to implement cost effective and sustainable measures to improve the quality of maternal health services with an aim of promoting safe delivery and hence reducing maternal mortality.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-360
PMCID: PMC3112141  PMID: 21599994
12.  Factors affecting the use of maternal health services in Madhya Pradesh state of India: a multilevel analysis 
Background
Improving maternal health is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals. It is widely accepted that the use of maternal health services helps in reducing maternal morbidity and mortality. The utilization of maternal health services is a complex phenomenon and it is influenced by several factors. Therefore, the factors at different levels affecting the use of these services need to be clearly understood. The objective of this study was to estimate the effects of individual, community and district level characteristics on the utilisation of maternal health services with special reference to antenatal care (ANC), skilled attendance at delivery and postnatal care (PNC).
Methods
This study was designed as a cross sectional study. Data from 15,782 ever married women aged 15-49 years residing in Madhya Pradesh state of India who participated in the District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS-3) 2007-08 were used for this study. Multilevel logistic regression analysis was performed accounting for individual, community and district level factors associated with the use of maternal health care services. Type of residence at community level and ratio of primary health center to population and percent of tribal population in the district were included as district level variables in this study.
Results
The results of this study showed that 61.7% of the respondents used ANC at least once during their most recent pregnancy whereas only 37.4% women received PNC within two weeks of delivery. In the last delivery, 49.8% mothers were assisted by skilled personnel. There was considerable amount of variation in the use of maternal health services at community and district levels. About 40% and 14% of the total variance in the use of ANC, 29% and 8% of the total variance in the use of skilled attendance at delivery and 28% and 8.5% of the total variance in the use of PNC was attributable to differences across communities and districts, respectively. When controlled for individual, community and district level factors, the variances in the use of skilled attendance at delivery attributed to the differences across communities and districts were reduced to 15% and 4.3% respectively. There were only marginal reductions observed in the variance at community and district level for ANC and PNC use. The household socio-economic status and mother's education were the most important factors associated with the use of ANC and skilled attendance at delivery. The community level variable was only significant for ANC and skilled attendance at delivery but not for PNC. None of the district level variables used in this study were found to be influential factors for the use of maternal health services.
Conclusions
We found sufficient amount of variations at community and district of residence on each of the three indicators of the use of maternal health services. For increasing the utilisation of these services in the state, in addition to individual-level, there is a strong need to identify and focus on community and district-level interventions.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-59
PMCID: PMC3283453  PMID: 22142036
Maternal health; antenatal care; skilled attendance at delivery; post natal care; multilevel analysis
13.  Global Estimates of Syphilis in Pregnancy and Associated Adverse Outcomes: Analysis of Multinational Antenatal Surveillance Data 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(2):e1001396.
Using multinational surveillance data, Lori Newman and colleagues estimate global rates of active syphilis in pregnant women, adverse effects, and antenatal coverage and treatment needed to meet WHO goals.
Background
The World Health Organization initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of syphilis aims for ≥90% of pregnant women to be tested for syphilis and ≥90% to receive treatment by 2015. We calculated global and regional estimates of syphilis in pregnancy and associated adverse outcomes for 2008, as well as antenatal care (ANC) coverage for women with syphilis.
Methods and Findings
Estimates were based upon a health service delivery model. National syphilis seropositivity data from 97 of 193 countries and ANC coverage from 147 countries were obtained from World Health Organization databases. Proportions of adverse outcomes and effectiveness of screening and treatment were from published literature. Regional estimates of ANC syphilis testing and treatment were examined through sensitivity analysis. In 2008, approximately 1.36 million (range: 1.16 to 1.56 million) pregnant women globally were estimated to have probable active syphilis; of these, 80% had attended ANC. Globally, 520,905 (best case: 425,847; worst case: 615,963) adverse outcomes were estimated to be caused by maternal syphilis, including approximately 212,327 (174,938; 249,716) stillbirths (>28 wk) or early fetal deaths (22 to 28 wk), 91,764 (76,141; 107,397) neonatal deaths, 65,267 (56,929; 73,605) preterm or low birth weight infants, and 151,547 (117,848; 185,245) infected newborns. Approximately 66% of adverse outcomes occurred in ANC attendees who were not tested or were not treated for syphilis. In 2008, based on the middle case scenario, clinical services likely averted 26% of all adverse outcomes. Limitations include missing syphilis seropositivity data for many countries in Europe, the Mediterranean, and North America, and use of estimates for the proportion of syphilis that was “probable active,” and for testing and treatment coverage.
Conclusions
Syphilis continues to affect large numbers of pregnant women, causing substantial perinatal morbidity and mortality that could be prevented by early testing and treatment. In this analysis, most adverse outcomes occurred among women who attended ANC but were not tested or treated for syphilis, highlighting the need to improve the quality of ANC as well as ANC coverage. In addition, improved ANC data on syphilis testing coverage, positivity, and treatment are needed.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Syphilis—a sexually transmitted bacterial infection caused by Treponema pallidum—can pass from a mother who is infected to her unborn child. Screening pregnant women for syphilis during routine antenatal care by looking for a reaction to T. pallidum in the blood (seropositivity) and then treating any detected infections with penicillin injections has been feasible for many years, even in low-resource settings. However, because coverage of testing and treatment of syphilis remains low in many countries, mother-to-child transmission of syphilis—“congenital syphilis”—is still a global public health problem. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there were 2 million syphilis infections among pregnant women annually, 65% of which resulted in adverse pregnancy outcomes: the baby's death during early or late pregnancy (fetal death and stillbirth, respectively) or soon after birth (neonatal death), or the birth of an infected baby. Babies born with syphilis often have a low birth weight and develop problems such as blindness, deafness, and seizures if not treated.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2007, WHO launched an initiative to eliminate congenital syphilis that set targets of at least 90% of pregnant women being tested for syphilis and at least 90% of seropositive pregnant women receiving adequate treatment by 2015. To assess the initiative's progress and to guide policy and advocacy efforts, accurate global data on the burden of syphilis in pregnancy and on associated adverse outcomes are needed. Unfortunately, even in developed countries with good laboratory facilities, definitive diagnosis of congenital syphilis is difficult. Estimates of the global burden can be obtained, however, using mathematical models. In this study, the researchers generate global and regional estimates of the burden of syphilis in pregnancy and associated adverse outcomes for 2008 using a health services delivery model.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a mathematical model to estimate the number of syphilis-infected pregnant women in each country and in each region, and to estimate the regional and global numbers of adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with syphilis. They used national syphilis seropositivity data and information on antenatal care coverage from WHO and estimates of the effectiveness of screening and treatment from published literature. Using these data and their model, the researchers estimated that, in 2008, 1.4 million pregnant women, 80% of whom had attended antenatal care services, had an active syphilis infection. Assuming a scenario in which the percentage of pregnant women tested for syphilis and adequately treated ranged from 30% for Africa and the Mediterranean region to 70% for Europe (a scenario defined in consultation with WHO advisors), the researchers estimated that maternal syphilis caused 520,000 adverse outcomes in 2008, including 215,000 stillbirths or fetal deaths, 90,000 neonatal deaths, 65,000 preterm or low birth weight infants, and 150,000 infants with congenital disease. About 66% of these adverse effects occurred in women who had attended antenatal care but were either not tested or not treated for syphilis. Finally, the researchers estimated that in 2008, clinical services averted 26% of all adverse outcomes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings, which update and extend previous estimates of the global burden of congenital syphilis, indicate that syphilis continues to affect a large number of pregnant women and their offspring. The current findings, which cannot be directly compared to previous estimates because of the different methodologies used, are likely to be affected by the accuracy of the data fed into the researchers' model. In particular, the data on the percentage of the population infected with syphilis in individual countries used in this study came from the HIV Universal Access reporting system and may not be nationally representative. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that syphilis continues to be an important cause of adverse outcomes of pregnancy, partly because pregnant women often do not receive syphilis screening and prompt treatment during routine antenatal care. The researchers recommend, therefore, that all countries should ensure that all pregnant women receive an essential package of high-quality antenatal care services that includes routine and easy access to syphilis testing and treatment. Congenital syphilis, they conclude, can only be eliminated if decision-makers at all levels prioritize the provision, quality, and monitoring of this basic antenatal care service, which has the potential to reduce infant mortality and improve maternal health.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001396.
The World Health Organization provides information on sexually transmitted diseases, including details of its strategy for the global elimination of congenital syphilis, the investment case for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis, and regional updates on progress towards elimination (some information is available in several languages)
The Pan American Health Organization provides information on efforts to eliminate congenital syphilis in Latin America (in English and Spanish), and the Asia-Pacific Prevention of Parent-to-Child Transmission Task Force provides information on efforts to eliminate congenital syphilis in Asia Pacific
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a fact sheet on syphilis (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website also has a page on syphilis
MedlinePlus provides information on congenital syphilis and links to additional syphilis resources (in English and Spanish)
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine provides a toolkit for the introduction of rapid syphilis tests
Haiti: Congenital Syphilis on the Way Out is a YouTube video describing the introduction of rapid diagnostic tests for syphilis in remote parts of Haiti
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001396
PMCID: PMC3582608  PMID: 23468598
14.  Determinants of maternal health service utilization in Ethiopia: analysis of the 2011 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey 
Background
Antenatal Care (ANC), use of skilled delivery attendants and postnatal care (PNC) services are key maternal health services that can significantly reduce maternal mortality. Understanding the factors that affect service utilization helps to design appropriate strategies and policies towards improvement of service utilization and thereby reduce maternal mortality. The objective of this study was to identify factors that affect utilization of maternal health services in Ethiopia.
Methods
Data were drawn from the 2011 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey. The dependent variables were use of ANC, skilled delivery attendants and PNC services. The independent variables were categorized as socio-cultural, perceived needs and accessibility related factors. Data analysis was done using SPSS for windows version 20.0. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models were used in the analysis.
Results
Thirty four percent of women had ANC visits, 11.7% used skilled delivery attendants and 9.7% of women had a postnatal health checkup. Education of women, place of residence, ethnicity, parity, women’s autonomy and household wealth had a significant association with the use of maternal health services. Women who completed higher education were more likely to use ANC (AOR = 3.8, 95% CI = 1.8-7.8), skilled delivery attendants (AOR = 3.4, 95% CI = 1.9-6.2) and PNC (AOR = 3.2, 95% CI = 2.0-5.2). Women from urban areas use ANC (AOR = 2.3, 95% CI = 1.9-2.9), skilled delivery attendants (AOR = 4.9, 95% CI = 3.8-6.3) and PNC services (AOR = 2.6, 95% CI = 2.0-3.4) more than women from rural areas. Women who have had ANC visits during the index pregnancy were more likely to subsequently use skilled delivery attendants (AOR = 1.3, 95% CI = 1.1-1.7) and PNC (AOR = 3.4, 95% CI = 2.8-4.1). Utilization of ANC, delivery and PNC services is more among more autonomous women than those whose spending is controlled by other people.
Conclusion
Maternal health service utilization in Ethiopia is very low. Socio-demographic and accessibility related factors are major determinants of service utilization. There is a high inequality in service utilization among women with differences in education, household wealth, autonomy and residence. ANC is an important entry point for subsequent use of delivery and PNC services. Strategies that aim improving maternal health service utilization should target improvement of education, economic status and empowerment of women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-161
PMCID: PMC4022978  PMID: 24886529
Antenatal care; Delivery; Postnatal care; Maternal health service; Determinants; Skilled delivery attendant; Ethiopia
15.  Do Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems benefit local populations? Maternal care utilisation in Butajira HDSS, Ethiopia 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24228.
Background
The benefits of Health and Demographic Surveillance sites for local populations have been the topic of discussion as countries such as Ethiopia take efforts to achieve their Millennium Development Goal targets, on which they lag behind. Ethiopia's maternal mortality ratio is very high, and in the 2011 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Survey (2011 EDHS) it was estimated to be 676/100,000 live births. Recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) and estimates based on the United Nations model reported better, but still unacceptably high, figures of 497/100,000 and 420/100,000 live births for 2013. In the 2011 EDHS, antenatal care (ANC) utilization was estimated at 34%, and delivery in health facilities was only 10%.
Objectives
To compare maternal health service utilization among populations in a Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) to non-HDSS populations in Butajira district, south central Ethiopia.
Design
A community-based comparative cross-sectional study was conducted in January and February 2012 among women who had delivered in the 2 years before the survey.
Results
A total of 2,296 women were included in the study. One thousand eight hundred and sixty two (81.1%) had attended ANC at least once, and 37% of the women had attended ANC at least four times. A quarter of the women delivered their last child in a health facility. Of the women living outside the HDSS areas, 715 (75.3%) attended ANC at least once compared to 85.1% of women living in the HDSS areas [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 0.59; 95% CI 0.46, 0.74]. Of the women living outside the HDSS areas, only 170 (17.9%) delivered in health facilities and were assisted by skilled attendants during delivery, whereas 30.0% of those living in HDSS areas delivered in health facilities (AOR 0.66; 95% CI 0.48, 0.91).
Conclusion
This paper provides possible evidence that living in an HDSS site has a positive influence on maternal health. In addition, there may be a positive influence on those living nearby or in the same district where an HDSS is located even when not included in the surveillance system.
doi:10.3402/gha.v7.24228
PMCID: PMC4083147  PMID: 24998383
demographic; surveillance; Ethiopia; antenatal care; skilled attendance; facility delivery
16.  Inequities in utilization of maternal health interventions in Namibia: implications for progress towards MDG 5 targets 
Background
Inequities in the utilization of maternal health services impede progress towards the MDG 5 target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015. In Namibia, despite increasing investments in the health sector, the maternal mortality ratio has increased from 271 per 100,000 live births in the period 1991-2000 to 449 per 100,000 live births in 1998-2007. Monitoring equity in the use of maternal health services is important to target scarce resources to those with more need and expedite the progress towards the MDG 5 target. The objective of this study is to measure socio-economic inequalities in access to maternal health services and propose recommendations relevant for policy and planning.
Methods
Data from the Namibia Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07 are analyzed for inequities in the utilization of maternal health. In measuring the inequities, rate-ratios, concentration curves and concentration indices are used.
Results
Regions with relatively high human development index have the highest rates of delivery by skilled health service providers. The rate of caesarean section in women with post secondary education is about seven times that of women with no education. Women in urban areas are delivered by skilled providers 30% more than their rural counterparts. The rich use the public health facilities 30% more than the poor for child delivery.
Conclusion
Most of the indicators such as delivery by trained health providers, delivery by caesarean section and postnatal care show inequities favoring the most educated, urban areas, regions with high human development indices and the wealthy. In the presence of inequities, it is difficult to achieve a significant reduction in the maternal mortality ratio needed to realize the MDG 5 targets so long as a large segment of society has inadequate access to essential maternal health services and other basic social services. Addressing inequities in access to maternal health services should not only be seen as a health systems issue. The social determinants of health have to be tackled through multi-sectoral approaches in line with the principles of Primary Health Care and the recommendations of the Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-9-16
PMCID: PMC2898738  PMID: 20540793
17.  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
18.  Equity in reproductive and maternal health services in Bangladesh 
Background
The target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is now closer than ever. There is lack of sufficient progress in achieving the MDG targets in many low- and middle-income countries. Furthermore, there has also been concerns about wide spread inequity among those that are on track to achieve the health-related MDGs. Bangladesh has made a notable progress towards achieving the MDG 5 targets. It is, however, important to assess if this is an inclusive and equitable progress, as inequitable progress may not lead to sustainable health outcomes. The objective of this study is to assess the magnitude of inequities in reproductive and maternal health services in Bangladesh and propose relevant recommendations for decision making.
Methods
The 2007 Bangladesh demographic and health survey data is analyzed for inequities in selected maternal and reproductive health interventions using the slope and relative indices of inequality.
Results
The analysis indicates that there are significant wealth-related inequalities favouring the wealthiest of society in many of the indicators considered. Antenatal care (at least 4 visits), antenatal care by trained providers such as doctors and nurses, content of antenatal care, skilled birth attendance, delivery in health facility and delivery by caesarean section all manifest inequities against the least wealthy. There are no wealth-related inequalities in the use of modern contraception. In contrast, less desired interventions such as delivery by untrained providers and home delivery show wealth-related inequalities in favour of the poor.
Conclusions
For an inclusive and sustainable improvement in maternal and reproductive health outcomes and achievement of MDG 5 targets, it essential to address inequities in maternal and reproductive health interventions. Under the government’s stewardship, all stakeholders should accord priority to tackling wealth-related inequalities in maternal and reproductive health services by implementing equity-promoting measures both within and outside the health sector.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-90
PMCID: PMC3842788  PMID: 24228997
19.  Determinants of antenatal and delivery care utilization in Tigray region, Ethiopia: a cross-sectional study 
Introduction
Despite the international emphasis in the last few years on the need to address the unmet health needs of pregnant women and children, progress in reducing maternal mortality has been slow. This is particularly worrying in sub-Saharan Africa where over 162,000 women still die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, most of them because of the lack of access to skilled delivery attendance and emergency care. With a maternal mortality ratio of 673 per 100,000 live births and 19,000 maternal deaths annually, Ethiopia is a major contributor to the worldwide death toll of mothers. While some studies have looked at different risk factors for antenatal care (ANC) and delivery service utilisation in the country, information coming from community-based studies related to the Health Extension Programme (HEP) in rural areas is limited. This study aims to determine the prevalence of maternal health care utilisation and explore its determinants among rural women aged 15–49 years in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Methods
The study was a community-based cross-sectional survey using a structured questionnaire. A cluster sampling technique was used to select women who had given birth at least once in the five years prior to the survey period. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were carried out to elicit the impact of each factor on ANC and institutional delivery service utilisation.
Results
The response rate was 99% (n=1113). The mean age of the participants was 30.4 years. The proportion of women who received ANC for their recent births was 54%; only 46 (4.1%) of women gave birth at a health facility. Factors associated with ANC utilisation were marital status, education, proximity of health facility to the village, and husband’s occupation, while use of institutional delivery was mainly associated with parity, education, having received ANC advice, a history of difficult/prolonged labour, and husbands’ occupation.
Conclusions
A relatively acceptable utilisation of ANC services but extremely low institutional delivery was observed. Classical socio-demographic factors were associated with both ANC and institutional delivery attendance. ANC advice can contribute to increase institutional delivery use. Different aspects of HEP need to be strengthened to improve maternal health in Tigray.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-30
PMCID: PMC3658893  PMID: 23672203
20.  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
21.  Lifesaving emergency obstetric services are inadequate in south-west Ethiopia: a formidable challenge to reducing maternal mortality in Ethiopia 
Background
Most maternal deaths take place during labour and within a few weeks after delivery. The availability and utilization of emergency obstetric care facilities is a key factor in reducing maternal mortality; however, there is limited evidence about how these institutions perform and how many people use emergency obstetric care facilities in rural Ethiopia. We aimed to assess the availability, quality, and utilization of emergency obstetric care services in the Gamo Gofa Zone of south-west Ethiopia.
Methods
We conducted a retrospective review of three hospitals and 63 health centres in Gamo Gofa. Using a retrospective review, we recorded obstetric services, documents, cards, and registration books of mothers treated and served in the Gamo Gofa Zone health facilities between July 2009 and June 2010.
Results
There were three basic and two comprehensive emergency obstetric care qualifying facilities for the 1,740,885 people living in Gamo Gofa. The proportion of births attended by skilled attendants in the health facilities was 6.6% of expected births, though the variation was large. Districts with a higher proportion of midwives per capita, hospitals and health centres capable of doing emergency caesarean sections had higher institutional delivery rates. There were 521 caesarean sections (0.8% of 64,413 expected deliveries and 12.3% of 4,231 facility deliveries). We recorded 79 (1.9%) maternal deaths out of 4,231 deliveries and pregnancy-related admissions at institutions, most often because of post-partum haemorrhage (42%), obstructed labour (15%) and puerperal sepsis (15%). Remote districts far from the capital of the Zone had a lower proportion of institutional deliveries (<2% of expected births compared to an overall average of 6.6%). Moreover, some remotely located institutions had very high maternal deaths (>4% of deliveries, much higher than the average 1.9%).
Conclusion
Based on a population of 1.7 million people, there should be 14 basic and four comprehensive emergency obstetric care (EmOC) facilities in the Zone. Our study found that only three basic and two comprehensive EmOC service qualifying facilities serve this large population which is below the UN’s minimum recommendation. The utilization of the existing facilities for delivery was also low, which is clearly inadequate to reduce maternal deaths to the MDG target.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-459
PMCID: PMC4228432  PMID: 24180672
22.  Inequities in maternal and child health outcomes and interventions in Ghana 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:252.
Background
With the date for achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaching fast, there is a heightened concern about equity, as inequities hamper progress towards the MDGs. Equity-focused approaches have the potential to accelerate the progress towards achieving the health-related MDGs faster than the current pace in a more cost-effective and sustainable manner. Ghana's rate of progress towards MDGs 4 and 5 related to reducing child and maternal mortality respectively is less than what is required to achieve the targets. The objective of this paper is to examine the equity dimension of child and maternal health outcomes and interventions using Ghana as a case study.
Methods
Data from Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 2008 report is analyzed for inequities in selected maternal and child health outcomes and interventions using population-weighted, regression-based measures: slope index of inequality and relative index of inequality.
Results
No statistically significant inequities are observed in infant and under-five mortality, perinatal mortality, wasting and acute respiratory infection in children. However, stunting, underweight in under-five children, anaemia in children and women, childhood diarrhoea and underweight in women (BMI < 18.5) show inequities that are to the disadvantage of the poorest. The rates significantly decrease among the wealthiest quintile as compared to the poorest. In contrast, overweight (BMI 25-29.9) and obesity (BMI ≥ 30) among women reveals a different trend - there are inequities in favour of the poorest. In other words, in Ghana overweight and obesity increase significantly among women in the wealthiest quintile compared to the poorest. With respect to interventions: treatment of diarrhoea in children, receiving all basic vaccines among children and sleeping under ITN (children and pregnant women) have no wealth-related gradient. Skilled care at birth, deliveries in a health facility (both public and private), caesarean section, use of modern contraceptives and intermittent preventive treatment for malaria during pregnancy all indicate gradients that are in favour of the wealthiest. The poorest use less of these interventions. Not unexpectedly, there is more use of home delivery among women of the poorest quintile.
Conclusion
Significant Inequities are observed in many of the selected child and maternal health outcomes and interventions. Failure to address these inequities vigorously is likely to lead to non-achievement of the MDG targets related to improving child and maternal health (MDGs 4 and 5). The government should therefore give due attention to tackling inequities in health outcomes and use of interventions by implementing equity-enhancing measure both within and outside the health sector in line with the principles of Primary Health Care and the recommendations of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-252
PMCID: PMC3338377  PMID: 22463465
23.  Challenges in delivery of skilled maternal care – experiences of community midwives in Pakistan 
Background
Maternal mortality ratio in Pakistan remains high at 276 per 100000 live births (175 in the urban areas and 319 in rural) with a mother dying as a result of giving birth every 20 minutes. Despite the intervening years since the Safe Motherhood Initiative launch and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), there have been few improvements in MDGs 4 and 5 in Pakistan. A key underlying reason is that only 39% of the births are attended by skilled birth attendants. Pakistan, like many other developing countries has been struggling to make improvements in maternal and neonatal health, amongst other measures, which include a nationwide health infrastructure network. Recently, government of Pakistan revised its maternal and newborn health program and introduced a new cadre of community based birth attendants, called community midwives (CMW), trained to conduct home-based deliveries. There is limited research available on field experiences of community midwives as maternal health care providers. Formative research was designed and conducted in a rural district of Pakistan with the objective of exploring role of CMWs as home based skilled service providers and the challenges they face in provision of skilled maternal care.
Methods
A qualitative research using content analysis was conducted in one rural district (Attock) of Pakistan. Focus group discussions were conducted with CMWs and other community based health workers as LHWs and LHSs, focusing on the role of CMWs in the existing primary health care infrastructure.
Results
Results of this study reveal that the community midwives are struggling for survival in rural areas as maternal care providers as they are inadequately trained, lack sufficient resources to deliver services in their catchment areas and lack facilitation for integration in district health system.
Conclusions
CMWs face many challenges in the field related to the communities' attitude and the health system. With adequate training and facilitation by health department, CMWs have potential to play a vital role in reducing burden of maternal morbidity and in achieving significant gains in improving maternal and child health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-59
PMCID: PMC3922011  PMID: 24499344
24.  Delivering at home or in a health facility? health-seeking behaviour of women and the role of traditional birth attendants in Tanzania 
Background
Traditional birth attendants retain an important role in reproductive and maternal health in Tanzania. The Tanzanian Government promotes TBAs in order to provide maternal and neonatal health counselling and initiating timely referral, however, their role officially does not include delivery attendance. Yet, experience illustrates that most TBAs still often handle complicated deliveries. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to describe (1) women’s health-seeking behaviour and experiences regarding their use of antenatal (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC); (2) their rationale behind the choice of place and delivery; and to learn (3) about the use of traditional practices and resources applied by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and how they can be linked to the bio-medical health system.
Methods
Qualitative and quantitative interviews were conducted with over 270 individuals in Masasi District, Mtwara Region and Ilala Municipality, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Results
The results from the urban site show that significant achievements have been made in terms of promoting pregnancy- and delivery-related services through skilled health workers. Pregnant women have a high level of awareness and clearly prefer to deliver at a health facility. The scenario is different in the rural site (Masasi District), where an adequately trained health workforce and well-equipped health facilities are not yet a reality, resulting in home deliveries with the assistance of either a TBA or a relative.
Conclusions
Instead of focusing on the traditional sector, it is argued that more attention should be paid towards (1) improving access to as well as strengthening the health system to guarantee delivery by skilled health personnel; and (2) bridging the gaps between communities and the formal health sector through community-based counselling and health education, which is provided by well-trained and supervised village health workers who inform villagers about promotive and preventive health services, including maternal and neonatal health.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-55
PMCID: PMC3599352  PMID: 23448583
Maternal health; Traditional birth attendants; Health facility delivery; Pregnancy; Tanzania
25.  Determinants of maternal health services utilization in urban settings of the Democratic Republic of Congo – A Case study of Lubumbashi City 
Background
The use of maternal health services, known as an indirect indicator of perinatal death, is still unknown in Lubumbashi. The present study was therefore undertaken in order to determine the factors that influence the use of mother and child healthcare services in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Methods
This was transversal study of women residing in Lubumbashi who had delivered between January and December 2009. In total, 1762 women were sampled from households using indicator cluster surveys in all health zones. Antenatal consultations (ANC), delivery assisted by qualified healthcare personnel (and delivery in a healthcare facility) as well as postnatal consultations (PNC) were dependent variables of study. The factors determining non-use of maternal healthcare services were researched via logistic regression with a 5% materiality threshold.
Results
The use of maternal healthcare services was variable; 92.6% of women had attended ANC at least once, 93.8% of women had delivered at a healthcare facility, 97.2% had delivered in the presence of qualified healthcare personnel, while the rate of caesarean section was 4.5%. Only 34.6% postnatal women had attended PNC by 42 days after delivery. During these ANC visits, only 60.6% received at least one dose of vaccine, while 38.1% received Mebendazole, 35.6% iron, 32.7% at least one dose of SulfadoxinePyrimethamine, 29.2% folic acid, 15.5% screening for HIV and 12.8% an insecticide treated net.
In comparison to women that had had two or three deliveries before, primiparous and grand multiparous women were twice as likely not to use ANC during their pregnancy. Women who had unplanned pregnancies were also more likely not to use ANC or PNC than those who had planned pregnancies alone or with their partner. The women who had not used ANC were also more likely not to use PNC. The women who had had a trouble-free delivery were more likely not to use PNC than those who had complications when delivering.
Conclusion
In Lubumbashi, a significant proportion of women continue not to make use of healthcare services during pregnancy, as well as during and after childbirth. Women giving birth for the first time, those who have already given birth many times, and women with an unwanted pregnancy, made less use of ANC. Moreover, women who had not gone for ANC rarely came back for postnatal consultations, even if they had given birth at a healthcare facility. Similarly, those who gave birth without complications, less frequently made use of postnatal consultations. As with ANCs, women with unwanted pregnancies rarely went for postnatal visits.
In addition to measures aimed at reinforcing women’s autonomy, efforts are also needed to reinforce and improve the information given to women of childbearing age, as well as communication between the healthcare system and the community, and participation from the community, since this will contribute to raising awareness of safe motherhood and the use of such services, including family planning.
doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-66
PMCID: PMC3449182  PMID: 22780957

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