To describe the staffing and availability of medical equipment and medications and the performance of procedures at health facilities providing maternal and neonatal care at African, Asian, and Latin American sites participating in a multicenter trial to improve emergency obstetric/neonatal care in communities with high maternal and perinatal mortality.
In 2009, prior to intervention, we surveyed 136 hospitals and 228 clinics in 7 sites in Africa, Asia, and Latin America regarding staffing, availability of equipment/ medications, and procedures including cesarean section.
The coverage of physicians and nurses/midwives was poor in Africa and Latin America. In Africa, only 20% of hospitals had full-time physicians. Only 70% of hospitals in Africa and Asia had performed cesarean sections in the last 6 months. Oxygen was unavailable in 40% of African hospitals and 17% of Asian hospitals. Blood was unavailable in 80% of African and Asian hospitals.
Assuming that adequate facility services are necessary to improve pregnancy outcomes, it is not surprising that maternal and perinatal mortality rates in the areas surveyed are high. The data presented emphasize that to reduce mortality in these areas, resources that result in improved staffing and sufficient equipment, supplies, and medication, along with training, are required.
emergency obstetric and neonatal care; developing countries; perinatal mortality
To implement a vital statistics registry system to register pregnant women and document birth outcomes in the Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research sites in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
The Global Network sites began a prospective population-based pregnancy registry to identify all pregnant women and record pregnancy outcomes up to 42 days post-delivery in more than 100 defined low-resource geographic areas (clusters). Pregnant women were registered during pregnancy, with 42-day maternal and neonatal follow-up recorded—including care received during the pregnancy and postpartum periods. Recorded outcomes included stillbirth, neonatal mortality, and maternal mortality rates.
In 2010, 72 848 pregnant women were enrolled and 6-week follow-up was obtained for 97.8%. Across sites, 40.7%, 24.8%, and 34.5% of births occurred in a hospital, health center, and home setting, respectively. The mean neonatal mortality rate was 23 per 1000 live births, ranging from 8.2 to 48.5 per 1000 live births. The mean stillbirth rate ranged from 13.7 to 54.4 per 1000 births.
The registry is an ongoing study to assess the impact of interventions and trends regarding pregnancy outcomes and measures of care to inform public health.
Maternal mortality; Neonatal mortality; Perinatal mortality; Pregnancy; Registry; Stillbirth
To determine whether resuscitation of infants who failed to develop effective breathing at birth increases survivors with neurodevelopmental impairment.
Infants unresponsive to stimulation who received bag and mask ventilation at birth in a resuscitation trial and infants who did not require any resuscitation were randomized to early neurodevelopmental intervention or control. Infants were evaluated by trained neurodevelopmental evaluators masked to both their resuscitation history and intervention group. The 12-month neurodevelopmental outcome data for both resuscitated and non-resuscitated infants randomized to the control groups are reported.
The study provided no evidence of a difference between the resuscitated (N = 86) and the non-resuscitated infants (N = 115) in the percentage of infants at 12 months with a mental developmental index < 85 on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-II (primary outcome) (18% versus 12%; p = 0.22) and in other neurodevelopmental outcomes.
The overwhelming majority of infants who received resuscitation with bag and mask ventilation at birth have 12-month neurodevelopmental outcomes in the normal range. Longer follow-up is needed because of increased risk for neurodevelopmental impairments.
Resuscitation; intellectual disability; low and middle income countries; neonatal mortality; infant mortality; developmental outcome
Ninety-eight percent of the 3.7 million neonatal deaths and 3.3 million stillbirths per year occur in developing countries, and evaluation of community-based interventions is needed.
Using a train-the-trainer model, local instructors trained birth attendants from rural communities in six countries (Argentina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, India, Pakistan, and Zambia) in the World Health Organization Essential Newborn Care course (routine neonatal care, resuscitation, thermoregulation, breastfeeding, kangaroo care, care of the small baby, and common illnesses), and in a modified version of the American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal Resuscitation Program (in depth basic resuscitation), except in Argentina.
The Essential Newborn Care intervention was assessed with a before and after design (N=57, 643). The Neonatal Resuscitation Program intervention was assessed as a cluster randomized controlled trial (N=62,366). The primary outcome was 7-day neonatal mortality.
The 7-day follow-up rate was 99.2%. Following Essential Newborn Care training, there was no significant reduction from baseline in all-cause 7-day neonatal (RR 0.99; CI 0.81, 1.22) or perinatal mortality; there was a significant reduction in the stillbirth rate (RR 0.69; CI 0.54, 0.88; p<0.01). Seven-day neonatal mortality, stillbirth, and perinatal mortality were not reduced in clusters randomized to Neonatal Resuscitation Program training as compared with control clusters.
Seven-day neonatal mortality did not decrease following the introduction of Essential Newborn Care training of community-based birth attendants, although the rate of stillbirths was reduced following this intervention. Subsequent training in the Neonatal Resuscitation Program did not significantly reduce the mortality rates. (clinicaltrials.gov number, NCT00136708).
neonatal mortality; perinatal mortality; developing countries; health systems; effectiveness
Preterm birth is a major cause of neonatal mortality, responsible for 28% of neonatal deaths overall. The administration of antenatal corticosteroids to women at high risk of preterm birth is a powerful perinatal intervention to reduce neonatal mortality in resource rich environments. The effect of antenatal steroids to reduce mortality and morbidity among preterm infants in hospital settings in developed countries with high utilization is well established, yet they are not routinely used in developing countries. The impact of increasing antenatal steroid use in hospital or community settings with low utilization rates and high infant mortality among premature infants due to lack of specialized services has not been well researched. There is currently no clear evidence about the safety of antenatal corticosteroid use for community-level births.
We hypothesize that a multi country, two-arm, parallel cluster randomized controlled trial to evaluate whether a multifaceted intervention to increase the use of antenatal corticosteroids, including components to improve the identification of pregnancies at high risk of preterm birth and providing and facilitating the appropriate use of steroids, will reduce neonatal mortality at 28 days of life in preterm newborns, compared with the standard delivery of care in selected populations of six countries. 102 clusters in Argentina, Guatemala, Kenya, India, Pakistan, and Zambia will be randomized, and around 60,000 women and newborns will be enrolled. Kits containing vials of dexamethasone, syringes, gloves, and instructions for administration will be distributed. Improving the identification of women at high risk of preterm birth will be done by (1) diffusing recommendations for antenatal corticosteroids use to health providers, (2) training health providers on identification of women at high risk of preterm birth, (3) providing reminders to health providers on the use of the kits, and (4) using a color-coded tape to measure uterine height to estimate gestational age in women with unknown gestational age. In both intervention and control clusters, health providers will be trained in essential newborn care for low birth weight babies. The primary outcome is neonatal mortality at 28 days of life in preterm infants.
ClinicalTrials.gov. Identifier: NCT01084096
Neonatal mortality; Antenatal corticosteroids; Implementation research; Preterm birth
To determine population-based stillbirth rates and to determine whether the timing and maturity of the stillbirths suggest a high proportion of potentially preventable deaths.
Prospective observational study.
Communities in six low-income countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Zambia, Guatemala, India, and Pakistan) and one site in a mid-income country (Argentina).
Pregnant women residing in the study communities.
Over a five-year period, in selected catchment areas, using multiple methodologies, trained study staff obtained pregnancy outcomes on each delivery in their area.
Main outcome measures
Pregnancy outcome, stillbirth characteristics.
Outcomes of 195 400 deliveries were included. Stillbirth rates ranged from 32 per 1 000 in Pakistan to 8 per 1 000 births in Argentina. Three-fourths (76%) of stillbirth off-spring were not macerated, 63% were ≥37 weeks and 48% weighed 2 500g or more. Across all sites, women with no education, of high and low parity, of older age, and without access to antenatal care were at significantly greater risk for stillbirth (p<0.001). Compared to those delivered by a physician, women delivered by nurses and traditional birth attendants had a lower risk of stillbirth.
In these low-middle income countries, most stillbirth offspring were not macerated, were reported as ≥37 weeks’ gestation, and almost half weighed at least 2 500g. With access to better medical care, especially in the intrapartum period, many of these stillbirths could likely be prevented.
Developing countries; intrapartum stillbirth; stillbirth
Nearly half the world’s babies are born at home. We sought to evaluate the training, knowledge, skills, and access to medical equipment and testing for home birth attendants across 7 international sites.
Face-to-face interviews were done by trained interviewers to assess level of training, knowledge and practices regarding care during the antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum periods. The survey was administered to a sample of birth attendants conducting home or out-of-facility deliveries in 7 sites in 6 countries (India, Pakistan, Guatemala, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and Zambia).
A total of 1226 home birth attendants were surveyed. Less than half the birth attendants were literate. Eighty percent had one month or less of formal training. Most home birth attendants did not have basic equipment (e.g., blood pressure apparatus, stethoscope, infant bag and mask manual resuscitator). Reporting of births and maternal and neonatal deaths to government agencies was low. Indian auxilliary nurse midwives, who perform some home but mainly clinic births, were far better trained and differed in many characteristics from the birth attendants who only performed deliveries at home.
Home birth attendants in low-income countries were often illiterate, could not read numbers and had little formal training. Most had few of the skills or access to tests, medications and equipment that are necessary to reduce maternal, fetal or neonatal mortality.
Home births; Traditional birth attendants; Perinatal mortality
To determine the cost-effectiveness of the World Health Organization (WHO) Essential Newborn Care (ENC) training of health care providers in first-level facilities in the 2 largest cities in Zambia.
Data were extracted from a study in which the effectiveness of the ENC training was evaluated (including universal precautions and cleanliness, routine neonatal care, resuscitation, thermoregulation, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin care, care of the small infant, danger signs, and common illnesses). The costs to train an ENC instructor for each first-level delivery facility and the costs of salary/benefits for 2 coordinators responsible for maintenance of the program were recorded in 2005 US dollars. The incremental costs per life gained and per disability-adjusted life-year averted were calculated.
A 5-day ENC training-of-trainers was conducted in Lusaka, Zambia, to certify 18 college-trained midwives as ENC instructors. The instructors trained all clinic midwives working in their first-level facilities as part of a before-and-after study of the effect of ENC training on early neonatal mortality conducted from Oct 2004 to Nov 2006.
All-cause 7-day (early) neonatal mortality decreased from 11.5 per 1000 to 6.8 per 1000 live births after ENC training of the clinic midwives (relative risk: 0.59; 95% confidence interval: 0.48–0.77; P < .001; 40 615 births). The intervention costs were $208 per life saved and $5.24 per disability-adjusted life-year averted.
ENC training of clinic midwives who provide care in low-risk facilities is a low-cost intervention that can reduce early neonatal mortality in these settings.
developing countries; low-middle income countries; neonatal mortality; perinatal mortality; midwives
Each year, an estimated six million perinatal deaths occur worldwide, and 98% of these deaths occur in lowand middle-income countries. These estimates are based on surveys in both urban and rural areas, and they may underrepresent the problem in rural areas. This study was conducted to quantify perinatal mortality, to identify the associated risk factors, and to determine the most common causes of early neonatal death in a rural area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Data were collected on 1,892 births. Risk factors associated with perinatal deaths were identified using multivariate analysis with logistic regression models. Causes of early neonatal deaths were determined by physician-review of information describing death. The perinatal mortality rate was 61 per 1,000 births; the stillbirth rate was 30 per 1,000 births; and the early neonatal death rate was 32 per 1,000 livebirths. Clinically-relevant factors independently associated with perinatal death included: low birthweight [odds ratio (OR)=13.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) 7.82-23.35], breech presentation (OR)=12.41; 95% CI 4.62-33.33), lack of prenatal care (OR=2.70, 95% CI 1.81-4.02), and parity greater than 4 (OR=1.93 95% CI 1.11-3.37). Over one-half of early neonatal deaths (n=37) occurred during the first two postnatal days, and the most common causes were low birthweight/prematurity (47%), asphyxia (34%), and infection (8%). The high perinatal mortality rate in rural communities in the DRC, approximately one-half of which is attributable to early neonatal death, may be modifiable. Specifically, deaths due to breech presentation, the second most common risk factor, may be reduced by making available emergency obstetric care. Most neonatal deaths occur soon after birth, and nearly three-quarters are caused by low birthweight/prematurity or asphyxia. Neonatal mortality might be reduced by targeting interventions to improve neonatal resuscitation and care of larger preterm infants.
Neonatal mortality; Observational studies; Perinatal mortality; Population-based studies; Prospective studies; Stillbirths; Congo
This article describes efforts to create, share, and sustain an online clearinghouse of expert-reviewed “promising practices” in pandemic influenza preparedness from September 2006 to December 2008. This project involved six activities: (1) determining focus areas, (2) defining a promising practice, (3) collecting practices, (4) establishing an expert-review process for accepting practices, (5) disseminating the practices, and (6) evaluating the project. By December 31, 2008, materials and descriptions for 181 expert-reviewed practices had been posted in a public online database. Practices were available in four areas: models for care, communication, mitigation, and at-risk groups. The database has been used by international agencies and a variety of U.S. organizations. The challenges and constraints facing the U.S. public health system underscore the need to maximize resources. We believe that the Promising Practices Project demonstrates a useful approach in pandemic preparedness and response and may serve as a valuable model for other areas of public health.
To compare the accuracy of the reported date of the last menstrual period (LMP) with that of symphysis-fundal height (SFH) in the estimation of gestational age (GA), using an ultrasound (US) scan as reference.
Gestational age was concurrently assessed by the 3 methods in this prospective, population-based, pregnancy-outcome study conducted in Hyderabad, Pakistan, from June 18, 2003, through August 31, 2005, with 1128 women between 20 and 26 weeks of a singleton pregnancy.
The mean GA was less by ultrasound than by SFH measurement or the reported LMP, and the mean differences with the US result were statistically significant (P <0.001 for both). At delivery, about 75% of the GA values estimated by SFH measurement were within 7 days and almost 91% were within 14 days of the estimation by ultrasound, compared with 65% and 82% for the GA estimated by the reported LMP. Moreover, using the US as reference, the SFH correctly classified 84% of the term, 68% of the preterm, and 86% of the post-term deliveries (weighted κ = 0.58) compared with the corresponding 79%, 61%, and 55% predicted by the reported LMP (weighted κ = 0.44).
The SFH measurement was found to be more accurate than the reported LMP as a tool to estimate GA and therefore date of delivery, but neither were as accurate as a US scan.
Gestational age; Last menstrual period; Pakistan; Symphysis-fundal height; Ultrasound
Because of a physician shortage in many low-income countries, the use of nonphysicians to classify perinatal mortality (stillbirth and early neonatal death) using verbal autopsy could be useful.
To determine the extent to which underlying perinatal causes of deaths assigned by nonphysicians in Guatemala, Pakistan, Zambia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo using a verbal autopsy method are concordant with underlying perinatal cause of death assigned by physician panels.
Using a train-the-trainer model, 13 physicians and 40 nonphysicians were trained to determine cause of death using a standardized verbal autopsy training program. Subsequently, panels of two physicians and individual nonphysicians from this trained cohort independently reviewed verbal autopsy data from a sample of 118 early neonatal deaths and 134 stillbirths. With the cause of death assigned by the physician panel as the reference standard, sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and cause-specific mortality fractions were calculated to assess nonphysicians' coding responses. Robustness criteria to assess how well nonphysicians performed were used.
Causes of early neonatal death and stillbirth assigned by nonphysicians were concordant with physician-assigned causes 47% and 57% of the time, respectively. Tetanus filled robustness criteria for early neonatal death, and cord prolapse filled robustness criteria for stillbirth.
There are significant differences in underlying cause of death as determined by physicians and nonphysicians even when they receive similar training in cause of death determination. Currently, it does not appear that nonphysicians can be used reliably to assign underlying cause of perinatal death using verbal autopsy.
In many developing countries, the majority of births are attended by traditional birth attendants, who lack formal training in neonatal resuscitation and other essential care required by the newly born infant. In these countries, the major causes of neonatal mortality are birth asphyxia, infection, and low-birth-weight/prematurity. Death from these causes is potentially modifiable using low-cost interventions, including neonatal resuscitation training. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect on perinatal mortality of training birth attendants in a rural area of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) using two established programs.
This study, a secondary analysis of DRC-specific data collected during a multi-country study, was conducted in two phases. The effect of training using the WHO Essential Newborn Care (ENC) program was evaluated using an active baseline design, followed by a cluster randomized trial of training using an adaptation of a neonatal resuscitation program (NRP). The perinatal mortality rates before ENC, after ENC training, and after randomization to additional NRP training or continued care were compared. In addition, the influence of time following resuscitation training was investigated by examining change in perinatal mortality during sequential three-month increments following ENC training.
More than two-thirds of deliveries were attended by traditional birth attendants and occurred in homes; these proportions decreased after ENC training. There was no apparent decline in perinatal mortality when the outcome of all deliveries prior to ENC training was compared to those after ENC but before NRP training. However, there was a gradual but significant decline in perinatal mortality during the year following ENC training (RR 0.73; 95% CI: 0.56-0.96), which was independently associated with time following training. The decline was attributable to a decline in early neonatal mortality. NRP training had no demonstrable effect on early neonatal mortality.
Training DRC birth attendants using the ENC program reduces perinatal mortality. However, a period of utilization and re-enforcement of training may be necessary before a decline in mortality occurs. ENC training has the potential to be a low cost, high impact intervention in developing countries.
This trial has been registered at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov (identifier NCT00136708).
Inadequate and inappropriate complementary feeding are major factors contributing to excess morbidity and mortality in young children in low resource settings. Animal source foods in particular are cited as essential to achieve micronutrient requirements. The efficacy of the recommendation for regular meat consumption, however, has not been systematically evaluated.
A cluster randomized efficacy trial was designed to test the hypothesis that 12 months of daily intake of beef added as a complementary food would result in greater linear growth velocity than a micronutrient fortified equi-caloric rice-soy cereal supplement. The study is being conducted in 4 sites of the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research located in Guatemala, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia in communities with toddler stunting rates of at least 20%. Five clusters per country were randomized to each of the food arms, with 30 infants in each cluster. The daily meat or cereal supplement was delivered to the home by community coordinators, starting when the infants were 6 months of age and continuing through 18 months. All participating mothers received nutrition education messages to enhance complementary feeding practices delivered by study coordinators and through posters at the local health center. Outcome measures, obtained at 6, 9, 12, and 18 months by a separate assessment team, included anthropometry; dietary variety and diversity scores; biomarkers of iron, zinc and Vitamin B12 status (18 months); neurocognitive development (12 and 18 months); and incidence of infectious morbidity throughout the trial. The trial was supervised by a trial steering committee, and an independent data monitoring committee provided oversight for the safety and conduct of the trial.
Findings from this trial will test the efficacy of daily intake of meat commencing at age 6 months and, if beneficial, will provide a strong rationale for global efforts to enhance local supplies of meat as a complementary food for young children.
Maternal and newborn mortality rates remain unacceptably high, especially where the majority of births occur in home settings or in facilities with inadequate resources. The introduction of emergency obstetric and newborn care services has been proposed by several organizations in order to improve pregnancy outcomes. However, the effectiveness of emergency obstetric and neonatal care services has never been proven. Also unproven is the effectiveness of community mobilization and community birth attendant training to improve pregnancy outcomes.
We have developed a cluster-randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a comprehensive intervention of community mobilization, birth attendant training and improvement of quality of care in health facilities on perinatal mortality in low and middle-income countries where the majority of births take place in homes or first level care facilities. This trial will take place in 106 clusters (300-500 deliveries per year each) across 7 sites of the Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research in Argentina, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Pakistan and Zambia. The trial intervention has three key elements, community mobilization, home-based life saving skills for communities and birth attendants, and training of providers at obstetric facilities to improve quality of care. The primary outcome of the trial is perinatal mortality. Secondary outcomes include rates of stillbirth, 7-day neonatal mortality, maternal death or severe morbidity (including obstetric fistula, eclampsia and obstetrical sepsis) and 28-day neonatal mortality.
In this trial, we are evaluating a combination of interventions including community mobilization and facility training in an attempt to improve pregnancy outcomes. If successful, the results of this trial will provide important information for policy makers and clinicians as they attempt to improve delivery services for pregnant women and newborns in low-income countries.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the American Academy of Pediatrics Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) in improving knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy of nurse midwives in low-risk delivery clinics in a developing country.
We used the content specifications of the NRP material applicable to college-educated nurse midwives working in low-risk clinics in Zambia to develop performance and self-efficacy evaluations focused on principles of resuscitation, initial steps, ventilation, and chest compressions. These evaluations were administered to 127 nurse midwives before and after NRP training and 6-months later.
After training, written scores (knowledge evaluation) improved from 57% ± 14% to 80% ± 12% (mean ± SD; P < .0001); performance scores (skills evaluation) improved the most from 43% ± 21% to 88% ± 9% (P < .0001); self-efficacy scores improved from 74% ± 14% to 90% ± 10% (P < .0001). Written and performance scores decreased significantly 6 months after training, but self-efficacy scores remained high.
As conducted, the NRP training improved educational outcomes in college-educated practicing nurse midwives. Pre-training knowledge and skills scores were relatively low despite the advanced formal education and experience of the participants, whereas the self-efficacy scores were high. NRP training has the potential to substantially improve knowledge and skills of neonatal resuscitation.
This randomized controlled trial aims to evaluate the effects of an early developmental intervention program on the development of young children in low- and low-middle-income countries who are at risk for neurodevelopmental disability because of birth asphyxia. A group of children without perinatal complications are evaluated in the same protocol to compare the effects of early developmental intervention in healthy infants in the same communities. Birth asphyxia is the leading specific cause of neonatal mortality in low- and low-middle-income countries and is also the main cause of neonatal and long-term morbidity including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Mortality and morbidity from birth asphyxia disproportionately affect more infants in low- and low-middle-income countries, particularly those from the lowest socioeconomic groups. There is evidence that relatively inexpensive programs of early developmental intervention, delivered during home visit by parent trainers, are capable of improving neurodevelopment in infants following brain insult due to birth asphyxia.
This trial is a block-randomized controlled trial that has enrolled 174 children with birth asphyxia and 257 without perinatal complications, comparing early developmental intervention plus health and safety counseling to the control intervention receiving health and safety counseling only, in sites in India, Pakistan, and Zambia. The interventions are delivered in home visits every two weeks by parent trainers from 2 weeks after birth until age 36 months. The primary outcome of the trial is cognitive development, and secondary outcomes include social-emotional and motor development. Child, parent, and family characteristics and number of home visits completed are evaluated as moderating factors.
The trial is supervised by a trial steering committee, and an independent data monitoring committee monitors the trial. Findings from this trial have the potential to inform about strategies for reducing neurodevelopmental disabilities in at-risk young children in low and middle income countries.
99% of the 4 million neonatal deaths per year occur in developing countries. The WHO Essential Newborn Care (ENC) course sets the minimum accepted standard for training midwives on aspects of infant care (neonatal resuscitation, breastfeeding, kangaroo-care, small baby care and thermoregulation), many of which are provided by the mother.
To determine the association of ENC with all cause 7 day (early) neonatal mortality among the infants of less educated mothers compared to those of more educated ones.
Protocol- and ENC-certified research nurses trained all 123 college-educated midwives from 18 low-risk first level urban community health centers (Zambia) in data collection (one week) and ENC (one week) as part of a controlled study to test the clinical impact of ENC implementation. The mothers were categorized into two groups, those who had completed 7 years of school education (primary education) and those with 8 or more years of education.
ENC training is associated with decreases in early neonatal mortality; rates decreased from 11.2/1000 live births pre-ENC to 6.2/1000 following ENC implementation (p<0.001). Prenatal care, birth weight, race, and gender did not differ between the groups. Mortality for infants of mothers with 7 years of education decreased from 12.4 to 6.0/1000 (p<0.0001) but did not change significantly for those with 8 or more years of education (8.7 to 6.3/1000, p=0.14).
ENC training decreases early neonatal mortality, and the impact is larger in infants of mothers without secondary education. The impact of ENC may be optimized by training health care workers who treat women with less formal education.
maternal; education; neonatal mortality
Of the 4 million neonatal deaths and 500,000 maternal deaths that occur annually worldwide, almost 99% are in developing countries and one-third are associated with infections. Implementation of proven interventions and targeted research on a select number of promising high-impact preventative and curative interventions are essential to achieve Millennium Development Goals for reduction of child and maternal mortality. Feasible, simple, low-cost interventions have the potential to significantly reduce the mortality and severe morbidity associated with infection in these settings. Studies of chlorhexidine in developing countries have focused on three primary uses: 1) intrapartum vaginal and neonatal wiping, 2) neonatal wiping alone, and 3) umbilical cord cleansing. A study of vaginal wiping and neonatal skin cleansing with chlorhexidine, conducted in Malawi in the 1990s suggested that chlorhexidine has potential to reduce neonatal infectious morbidity and mortality. A recent trial of cord cleansing conducted in Nepal also demonstrated benefit. Although studies have shown promise, widespread acceptance and implementation of chlorhexidine use has not yet occurred. This paper is derived in part from data presented at a conference on the use of chlorhexidine in developing countries and reviews the available evidence related to chlorhexidine use to reduce mortality and severe morbidity due to infections in mothers and neonates in low-resource settings. It also summarizes issues related to programmatic implementation.
One of the major success stories of modern obstetrics in high-income countries in the last 5 decades is the reduction of stillbirths from rates as high as 50 per 1000 births to about 5 per 1000 births today. Fetal mortality associated with obstructed labour, asphyxia, hypertension, diabetes, Rh disease, placental abruption, post-term pregnancies and infections such as syphilis all have declined. Much of this success has occurred in term births in the intrapartum period so that most stillbirths in high-income countries now occur in the antepartum period and are pre-term. Current stillbirth rates in many low- and middle-income countries, and especially in those areas within the countries with poorly functioning health systems, approximate those seen in high-income countries 50 years ago. A major difference between the stillbirths occurring in high-income countries and those occurring elsewhere is the preponderance of late pre-term, term and intrapartum stillbirths in low-resource countries. Those stillbirths should be relatively easy to prevent by known risk assessment methods and prompt delivery, often by Cesarean section. This commentary addresses an extensive six-paper review of stillbirths with an emphasis on low- and middle-income countries. Among the conclusions are that while a number of interventions have been shown to be effective in reducing stillbirths, unless there is a functioning health system in which these interventions can be implemented, the potential for a sustainable and substantial reduction in stillbirth rates will not be reached.
Our goal was to determine stillbirth rates in a multi-site population-based study in community settings in the developing world.
Outcomes of all community deliveries in five resource-poor countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, India, Zambia and Pakistan) and in one mid-level country (Argentina) were prospectively evaluated over an 18-month period. Births >1000g with no signs of life were defined as stillbirth.
Outcomes of 60,324 deliveries were included. Stillbirth rates ranged from 34 per 1000 in Pakistan to 9 per 1000 births in Argentina. Increased stillbirth rates were significantly associated with lower skilled providers, out-of-hospital births, and low cesarean section rates. Maceration was present in 17.2% of stillbirths.
The stillbirth rates among births ≥ 1000g in these developing countries were substantially higher than reported stillbirth rates in developed countries (3-5/1000). Since most developed countries define a stillbirth as ≥20 weeks or ≥500g and since nearly half of all stillbirths are <1000g, the developing/developed country difference is actually larger than apparent from this study. Maceration was uncommon, indicating that most of the deaths probably occurred during labor. The low rates of physician attendance, hospital delivery, and cesarean sections suggest that stillbirth rates could be reduced by access to higher quality institutional deliveries.
Stillbirth; intrapartum stillbirth; developing countries
To determine stillbirth risk factors and gestational age at delivery in a prospective developing country birth cohort.
1369 Pakistani women were prospectively enrolled at 20 - 26 weeks, the gestational age determined by ultrasound, and risk factors and pregnancy outcomes assessed.
The stillbirth rate was 33.6/1000 births despite 96% of women receiving prenatal care, 83% attended by skilled providers in hospital and a 20% cesarean section rate. 51% of stillbirths occurred ≥ 37 weeks and 19% from 34-36 weeks. Only 4% had congenital anomalies. Hemoglobin < 8 g/dL, vaginal bleeding and preeclampsia were associated with increased stillbirth risk.
In this developing country with reasonable technical resources defined by hospital delivery and a high cesarean section rate, stillbirth rates were much higher than US rates. That most of the stillbirths were term, did not have congenital anomalies and the demise appeared to be recent, suggests that many Pakistani stillbirths may be preventable with higher quality obstetric care.
stillbirth; obstetrical care; developing countries