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1.  Who gives birth in private facilities in Asia? A look at six countries 
Health Policy and Planning  2014;29(Suppl 1):i38-i47.
Over the past two decades, multilateral organizations have encouraged increased engagement with private healthcare providers in developing countries. As these efforts progress, there are concerns regarding how private delivery care may effect maternal health outcomes. Currently available data do not allow for an in-depth study of the direct effect of increasing private sector use on maternal health across countries. As a first step, however, we use demographic and health surveys (DHS) data to (1) examine trends in growth of delivery care provided by private facilities and (2) describe who is using the private sector within the healthcare system. As Asia has shown strong increases in institutional coverage of delivery care in the last decade, we will examine trends in six Asian countries. We hypothesize that if the private sector competes for clients based on perceived quality, their clientele will be wealthier, more educated and live in an area where there are enough health facilities to allow for competition. We test this hypothesis by examining factors of socio-demographic, economic and physical access and actual/perceived need related to a mother’s choice to deliver in a health facility and then, among women delivering in a facility, their use of a private provider. Results show a significant trend towards greater use of private sector delivery care over the last decade. Wealth and education are related to private sector delivery care in about half of our countries, but are not as universally related to use as we would expect. A previous private facility birth predicted repeat private facility use across nearly all countries. In two countries (Cambodia and India), primiparity also predicted private facility use. More in-depth work is needed to truly understand the behaviour of the private sector in these countries; these results warn against making generalizations about private sector delivery care.
PMCID: PMC4095919  PMID: 25012797
Maternal health; private sector; Asia; delivery care
2.  A conference report on prenatal corticosteroid use in low- and middle-income countries 
To evaluate the evidence for prenatal corticosteroid use in low- and middle-income countries and to make recommendations regarding implementation and further research.
Studies and meta-analyses on prenatal corticosteroids relevant to low- and middle-income countries were identified and reviewed at the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Project (MCHIP) Antenatal Corticosteroid Conference held in Washington on October 19, 2010.
There is strong evidence regarding the effectiveness of prenatal corticosteroid use in hospitals in high- and middle-income countries, usually in settings with high-level newborn care. For births occurring in hospitals in low-income countries without high-level neonatal care or for births outside hospitals, no studies have been conducted to evaluate prenatal corticosteroid use. The efficacy and safety of prenatal corticosteroid use in these settings must be evaluated.
The conference working group recommended expanding the use of prenatal corticosteroids in hospitals with high-level newborn care in low-income countries. For other low-income country settings, further research regarding efficacy and safety should precede the widespread introduction of prenatal corticosteroids.
PMCID: PMC3910250  PMID: 21930269
Low-resource countries; Prenatal corticosteroids; Preterm birth
3.  Financial Incentives and Maternal Health: Where Do We Go from Here? 
Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition  2013;31(4 Suppl 2):S8-S22.
Health financing strategies that incorporate financial incentives are being applied in many low- and middle-income countries, and improving maternal and neonatal health is often a central goal. As yet, there have been few reviews of such programmes and their impact on maternal health. The US Government Evidence Summit on Enhancing Provision and use of Maternal Health Services through Financial Incentives was convened on 24-25 April 2012 to address this gap. This article, the final in a series assessing the effects of financial incentives—performance-based incentives (PBIs), insurance, user fee exemption programmes, conditional cash transfers, and vouchers—summarizes the evidence and discusses issues of context, programme design and implementation, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. We suggest key areas to consider when designing and implementing financial incentive programmes for enhancing maternal health and highlight gaps in evidence that could benefit from additional research. Although the methodological rigor of studies varies, the evidence, overall, suggests that financial incentives can enhance demand for and improve the supply of maternal health services. Definitive evidence demonstrating a link between incentives and improved health outcomes is lacking; however, the evidence suggests that financial incentives can increase the quantity and quality of maternal health services and address health systems and financial barriers that prevent women from accessing and providers from delivering quality, lifesaving maternal healthcare.
PMCID: PMC4021697
Healthcare-seeking behaviour; Health services research; Maternal health services, economics/utilization; Motivation; Newborn health services; Pregnancy; Programme evaluation
4.  Investigating Financial Incentives for Maternal Health: An Introduction 
Projection of current trends in maternal and neonatal mortality reduction shows that many countries will fall short of the UN Millennium Development Goal 4 and 5. Underutilization of maternal health services contributes to this poor progress toward reducing maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality. Moreover, the quality of services continues to lag in many countries, with a negative effect on the health of women and their babies, including deterring women from seeking care. To enhance the use and provision of quality maternal care, countries and donors are increasingly using financial incentives. This paper introduces the JHPN Supplement, in which each paper reviews the evidence of the effectiveness of a specific financial incentive instrument with the aim of improving the use and quality of maternal healthcare and impact. The US Agency for International Development and the US National Institutes of Health convened a US Government Evidence Summit on Enhancing Provision and Use of Maternal Health Services through Financial Incentives on 24-25 April 2012 in Washington, DC. The Summit brought together leading global experts in finance, maternal health, and health systems from governments, academia, development organizations, and foundations to assess the evidence on whether financial incentives significantly and substantially increase provision, use and quality of maternal health services, and the contextual factors that impact the effectiveness of these incentives. Evidence review teams evaluated the multidisciplinary evidence of various financial mechanisms, including supply-side incentives (e.g. performance-based financing, user fees, and various insurance mechanisms) and demand-side incentives (e.g. conditional cash transfers, vouchers, user fee exemptions, and subsidies for care-seeking). At the Summit, the teams presented a synthesis of evidence and initial recommendations on practice, policy, and research for discussion. The Summit enabled structured feedback on recommendations which the teams included in their final papers appearing in this Supplement. Papers in this Supplement review the evidence for a specific financial incentive mechanism (e.g. pay for performance, conditional cash transfer) to improve the use and quality of maternal healthcare and makes recommendations for programmes and future research. While data on programmes using financial incentives for improved use and indications of the quality of maternal health services support specific conclusions and recommendations, including those for future research, data linking the use of financial incentives with improved health outcomes are minimal.
PMCID: PMC4021699
Health services research: Maternal health services; Maternal welfare/economics; Pregnancy; Programme evaluation
5.  Impact of Conditional Cash Transfers on Maternal and Newborn Health 
Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition  2013;31(4 Suppl 2):S48-S66.
Maternal and newborn health (MNH) is a high priority for global health and is included among the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the slow decline in maternal and newborn mortality jeopardizes achievements of the targets of MDGs. According to UNICEF, 60 million women give birth outside of health facilities, and family planning needs are satisfied for only 50%. Further, skilled birth attendance and the use of antenatal care are most inequitably distributed in maternal and newborn health interventions in low- and middle-income countries. Conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes have been shown to increase health service utilization among the poorest but little is written on the effects of such programmes on maternal and newborn health. We carried out a systematic review of studies on CCT that report maternal and newborn health outcomes, including studies from 8 countries. The CCT programmes have increased antenatal visits, skilled attendance at birth, delivery at a health facility, and tetanus toxoid vaccination for mothers and reduced the incidence of low birthweight. The programmes have not had a significant impact on fertility while the impact on maternal and newborn mortality has not been well-documented thus far. Given these positive effects, we make the case for further investment in CCT programmes for maternal and newborn health, noting gaps in knowledge and providing recommendations for better design and evaluation of such programmes. We recommend more rigorous impact evaluations that document impact pathways and take factors, such as cost-effectiveness, into account.
PMCID: PMC4021703
Conditional cash transfers; Global health; Incentives; Maternal health; Millennium Development Goals; Newborn health; Social protection
6.  Association of antenatal care with facility delivery and perinatal survival – a population-based study in Bangladesh 
Antenatal Care (ANC) during pregnancy can play an important role in the uptake of evidence-based services vital to the health of women and their infants. Studies report positive effects of ANC on use of facility-based delivery and perinatal mortality. However, most existing studies are limited to cross-sectional surveys with long recall periods, and generally do not include population-based samples.
This study was conducted within the Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) in Matlab, Bangladesh. The HDSS area is divided into an icddr,b service area (SA) where women and children receive care from icddr,b health facilities, and a government SA where people receive care from government facilities. In 2007, a new Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Health (MNCH) program was initiated in the icddr,b SA that strengthened the ongoing maternal and child health services including ANC. We estimated the association of ANC with facility delivery and perinatal mortality using prospectively collected data from 2005 to 2009. Using a before-after study design, we also determined the role of ANC services on reduction of perinatal mortality between the periods before (2005 – 2006) and after (2008–2009) implementation of the MNCH program.
Antenatal care visits were associated with increased facility-based delivery in the icddr,b and government SAs. In the icddr,b SA, the adjusted odds of perinatal mortality was about 2-times higher (odds ratio (OR) 1.91; 95% confidence intervals (CI): 1.50, 2.42) among women who received ≤1 ANC compared to women who received ≥3 ANC visits. No such association was observed in the government SA. Controlling for ANC visits substantially reduced the observed effect of the intervention on perinatal mortality (OR 0.64; 95% CI: 0.52, 0.78) to non-significance (OR 0.81; 95% CI: 0.65, 1.01), when comparing cohorts before and after the MNCH program initiation (Sobel test of mediation P < 0.001).
ANC visits are associated with increased uptake of facility-based delivery and improved perinatal survival in the icddr,b SA. Further testing of the icddr,b approach to simultaneously improving quality of ANC and facility delivery care is needed in the existing health system in Bangladesh and in other low-income countries to maximize health benefits to mothers and newborns.
PMCID: PMC3495045  PMID: 23066832
8.  Profile of Maternal and Foetal Complications during Labour and Delivery among Women Giving Birth in Hospitals in Matlab and Chandpur, Bangladesh 
Worldwide, for an estimated 358,000 women, pregnancy and childbirth end in death and mourning, and beyond these maternal deaths, 9-10% of pregnant women or about 14 million women per year suffer from acute maternal complications. This paper documents the types and severity of maternal and foetal complications among women who gave birth in hospitals in Matlab and Chandpur, Bangladesh, during 2007-2008. The Community Health Research Workers (CHRWs) of the icddr,b service area in Matlab prospectively collected data for the study from 4,817 women on their places of delivery and pregnancy outcomes. Of them, 3,010 (62.5%) gave birth in different hospitals in Matlab and/or Chandpur and beyond. Review of hospital-records was attempted for 2,102 women who gave birth only in the Matlab Hospital of icddr,b and in other public and private hospitals in the Matlab and Chandpur area. Among those, 1,927 (91.7%) records were found and reviewed by a physician. By reviewing the hospital-records, 7.3% of the women (n=1,927) who gave birth in the local hospitals were diagnosed with a severe maternal complication, and 16.1% with a less-severe maternal complication. Abortion cases—either spontaneous or induced—were excluded from the analysis. Over 12% of all births were delivered by caesarean section (CS). For a substantial proportion (12.5%) of CS, no clear medical indication was recorded in the hospital-register. Twelve maternal deaths occurred during the study period; most (83%) of them had been in contact with a hospital before death. Recommendations include standardization of the hospital record-keeping system, proper monitoring of indications of CS, and introduction of maternal death audit for further improvement of the quality of care in public and private hospitals in rural Bangladesh.
PMCID: PMC3397325  PMID: 22838156
Caesarean section; Delivery; Foetal complications; Hospitals; Maternal complications; Maternal mortality; Perinatal mortality; Record-keeping; Bangladesh
9.  An Examination of Women Experiencing Obstetric Complications Requiring Emergency Care: Perceptions and Sociocultural Consequences of Caesarean Sections in Bangladesh 
Little is known about the physical and socioeconomic postpartum consequences of women who experience obstetric complications and require emergency obstetric care (EmOC), particularly in resource-poor countries such as Bangladesh where historically there has been a strong cultural preference for births at home. Recent increases in the use of skilled birth attendants show socioeconomic disparities in access to emergency obstetric services, highlighting the need to examine birthing preparation and perceptions of EmOC, including caesarean sections. Twenty women who delivered at a hospital and were identified by physicians as having severe obstetric complications during delivery or immediately thereafter were selected to participate in this qualitative study. Purposive sampling was used for selecting the women. The study was carried out in Matlab, Bangladesh, during March 2008–August 2009. Data-collection methods included in-depth interviews with women and, whenever possible, their family members. The results showed that the women were poorly informed before delivery about pregnancy-related complications and medical indications for emergency care. Barriers to care-seeking at emergency obstetric facilities and acceptance of lifesaving care were related to apprehensions about the physical consequences and social stigma, resulting from hospital procedures and financial concerns. The respondents held many misconceptions about caesarean sections and distrust regarding the reason for recommending the procedure by the healthcare providers. Women who had caesarean sections incurred high costs that led to economic burdens on family members, and the blame was attributed to the woman. The postpartum health consequences reported by the women were generally left untreated. The data underscore the importance of educating women and their families about pregnancy-related complications and preparing families for the possibility of caesarean section. At the same time, the health systems need to be strengthened to ensure that all women in clinical need of lifesaving obstetric surgery access quality EmOC services rapidly and, once in a facility, can obtain a caesarean section promptly, if needed. While greater access to surgical interventions may be lifesaving, policy-makers need to institute mechanisms to discourage the over-medicalization of childbirth in a context where the use of caesarean section is rapidly rising.
PMCID: PMC3397327  PMID: 22838158
Caesarean section; Childbirth; Economic burden; Obstetric complications; Perceptions; Qualitative studies; Bangladesh
10.  Violence against Women with Chronic Maternal Disabilities in Rural Bangladesh 
This study explored violence against women with chronic maternal disabilities in rural Bangladesh. During November 2006–July 2008, in-depth interviews were conducted with 17 rural Bangladeshi women suffering from uterine prolapse, stress incontinence, or fistula. Results of interviews showed that exposure to emotional abuse was almost universal, and most women were sexually abused. The common triggers for violence were the inability of the woman to perform household chores and to satisfy her husband's sexual demands. Misconceptions relating to the causes of these disabilities and the inability of the affected women to fulfill gender role expectations fostered stigma. Emotional and sexual violence increased their vulnerability, highlighting the lack of life options outside marriage and silencing most of them into accepting the violence. Initiatives need to be developed to address misperceptions regarding the causes of such disabilities and, in the long-term, create economic opportunities for reducing the dependence of women on marriage and men and transform the society to overcome rigid gender norms.
PMCID: PMC3397329  PMID: 22838160
Emotional violence; Maternal disabilities; Maternal morbidity; Sexual violence; Bangladesh
11.  Costs of Maternal Health-related Complications in Bangladesh 
This paper assesses both out-of-pocket payments for healthcare and losses of productivity over six months postpartum among women who gave birth in Matlab, Bangladesh. The hypothesis of the study objective is that obstetric morbidity leads women to seek care at which time out-of-pocket expenditure is incurred. Second, a woman may also take time out from employment or from doing her household chores. This loss of resources places a financial burden on the household that may lead to reduced consumption of usual but less important goods and use of other services depending on the extent to which a household copes up by using savings, taking loans, and selling assets. Women were divided into three groups based on their morbidity patterns: (a) women with a severe obstetric complication (n=92); (b) women with a less-severe obstetric complication (n=127); and (c) women with a normal delivery (n=483). Data were collected from households of these women at two time-points—at six weeks and six months after delivery. The results showed that maternal morbidity led to a considerable loss of resources up to six weeks postpartum, with the greatest financial burden of cost of healthcare among the poorest households. However, families coped up with loss of resources by taking loans and selling assets, and by the end of six months postpartum, the households had paid back more than 40% of the loans.
PMCID: PMC3397331  PMID: 22838162
Healthcare costs; Health financing; Health shocks; Maternal health; Bangladesh
12.  Effectiveness of an integrated approach to reduce perinatal mortality: recent experiences from Matlab, Bangladesh 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:914.
Improving perinatal health is the key to achieving the Millennium Development Goal for child survival. Recently, several reviews suggest that scaling up available effective perinatal interventions in an integrated approach can substantially reduce the stillbirth and neonatal death rates worldwide. We evaluated the effect of packaged interventions given in pregnancy, delivery and post-partum periods through integration of community- and facility-based services on perinatal mortality.
This study took advantage of an ongoing health and demographic surveillance system (HDSS) and a new Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) Project initiated in 2007 in Matlab, Bangladesh in half (intervention area) of the HDSS area. In the other half, women received usual care through the government health system (comparison area). The MNCH Project strengthened ongoing maternal and child health services as well as added new services. The intervention followed a continuum of care model for pregnancy, intrapartum, and post-natal periods by improving established links between community- and facility-based services. With a separate pre-post samples design, we compared the perinatal mortality rates between two periods--before (2005-2006) and after (2008-2009) implementation of MNCH interventions. We also evaluated the difference-of-differences in perinatal mortality between intervention and comparison areas.
Antenatal coverage, facility delivery and cesarean section rates were significantly higher in the post- intervention period in comparison with the period before intervention. In the intervention area, the odds of perinatal mortality decreased by 36% between the pre-intervention and post-intervention periods (odds ratio: 0.64; 95% confidence intervals: 0.52-0.78). The reduction in the intervention area was also significant relative to the reduction in the comparison area (OR 0.73, 95% CI: 0.56-0.95; P = 0.018).
The continuum of care approach provided through the integration of service delivery modes decreased the perinatal mortality rate within a short period of time. Further testing of this model is warranted within the government health system in Bangladesh and other low-income countries.
PMCID: PMC3257323  PMID: 22151276
13.  Psychological and social consequences among mothers suffering from perinatal loss: perspective from a low income country 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:451.
In developed countries, perinatal death is known to cause major emotional and social effects on mothers. However, little is known about these effects in low income countries which bear the brunt of perinatal mortality burden. This paper reports the impact of perinatal death on psychological status and social consequences among mothers in a rural area of Bangladesh.
A total of 476 women including 122 women with perinatal deaths were assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS-B) at 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum, and followed up for negative social consequences at 6 months postpartum. Trained female interviewers carried out structured interviews at women's home.
Overall 43% (95% CI: 33.7-51.8%) of women with a perinatal loss at 6 weeks postpartum were depressed compared to 17% (95% CI: 13.7-21.9%) with healthy babies (p = < 0.001). Depression status were significantly associated with women reporting negative life changes such as worse relationships with their husband (adjusted OR = 3.89, 95% CI: 1.37-11.04) and feeling guilty (adjusted OR = 2.61, 95% CI: 1.22-5.63) following the results of their last pregnancy outcome after 6 months of childbirth.
This study highlights the greatly increased vulnerability of women with perinatal death to experience negative psychological and social consequences. There is an urgent need to develop appropriate mental health care services for mothers with perinatal deaths in Bangladesh, including interventions to develop positive family support.
PMCID: PMC3124431  PMID: 21658218
Perinatal death; postnatal depression; social consequences; rural women; Bangladesh
14.  Improving Maternal Survival in South Asia—What Can We Learn from Case Studies? 
Technical interventions for maternal healthcare are implemented through a dynamic social process. Peoples' behaviours—whether they be planners, managers, providers, or potential users—influence the outcomes. Given the complexity and unpredictability inherent in such dynamic processes, the proposed cause-and-effect relationships in any one context cannot be directly transferred to another. While this is true of all health services, its importance is magnified in maternal healthcare because of the need to involve multiple levels of the health system, multiple types of care providers from the highly skilled specialist to community-level volunteers, and multiple technical interventions, without the ability to measure significant change in the outcome, the maternal mortality ratio. Patterns can be followed however, in terms of outcomes in response to interventions. From these case studies of implementation of maternal health programmes across five states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, some patterns stand out and seem to apply virtually everywhere (e.g. failure of systems to post staff in difficult areas) while others require more data to understand the observed patterns (e.g. response to financial incentives for improving maternal health systems; instituting available accessible safe blood). The patterns formed can provide guidance to programme managers as to what aspects of the process to track and micro-manage, to policy-makers as to what features of a context may particularly influence impacts of alternative maternal health strategies, and to governments more broadly as to the factors shaping dynamic responses that might themselves warrant intervention.
PMCID: PMC2761770  PMID: 19489409
Maternal health; Maternal mortality; Case studies; Asia, South; Bangladesh; India; Pakistan
16.  Quality of Obstetric Care in Public-sector Facilities and Constraints to Implementing Emergency Obstetric Care Services: Evidence from High- and Low-performing Districts of Bangladesh 
This study explored the quality of obstetric care in public-sector facilities and the constraints to programming comprehensive essential obstetric care (EOC) services in rural areas of Khulna and Sylhet divisions, relatively high- and low-performing areas of Bangladesh respectively. Quality was explored by physically inspecting all public-sector EOC facilities and the constraints through in-depth interviews with public-sector programme managers and service providers. Distribution of the functional EOC facilities satisfied the United Nation's minimum criteria of at least one comprehensive EOC and four basic EOC facilities for every 500,000 people in Khulna but not in Sylhet region. Human-resource constraints were the major barrier for maternal health. Sanctioned posts for nurses were inadequate in rural areas of both the divisions; however, deployment and retention of trained human resources were more problematic in rural areas of Sylhet. Other problems also plagued care, including unavailability of blood in rural settings and lack of use of evidence-based techniques. The overall quality of care was better in the EOC facilities of Khulna division than in Sylhet. ‘Context' of care was also different in these two areas: the population in Sylhet is less literate, more conservative, and faces more geographical and sociocultural barriers in accessing services. As a consequence of both care delivered and the context, more normal vaginal and caesarian-section deliveries were carried out in the public-sector EOC facilities in the Khulna region, with the exception of the medical college hospitals. To improve maternal healthcare, there is a need for a human-resource plan that increases the number of posts in rural areas and ensures availability. All categories of maternal healthcare providers also need training on evidence-based techniques. While the centralized push system of management has its strengths, special strategies for improving the response in the low-performing areas is urgently warranted.
PMCID: PMC2761772  PMID: 19489412
Emergency obstetric care; Health facilities; Health services; Maternal health; Maternal health services; Obstetric care; Quality of care; Rural health services; Bangladesh
17.  Verbal Autopsy of Maternal Deaths in Two Districts of Pakistan—Filling Information Gaps 
In Pakistan, the vital registration system is weak, and population-based data on the maternal mortality ratio are limited. This study was carried out to collect information on maternal deaths from different existing sources during the current year—2007 (prospective) and the past two years—2005 and 2006—(retrospective), identify gaps in information, and critically analyze maternal deaths at the community and health-facility levels in two districts in Pakistan. The verbal autopsy questionnaire was administered to households where a maternal death had occurred. No single source had complete data on maternal deaths. Risk factors identified among 128 deceased women were low socioeconomic status, illiteracy, low-earning jobs, parity, and bad obstetric history. These were similar to the findings of earlier studies. Half of the women did seek antenatal care, 34% having made more than four visits. Of the 104 women who died during or after delivery, 38% had delivered in a private facility and 18% in a government facility. The quality of services in both private and public sectors was inadequate. Sixty-nine percent of deaths occurred in the postpartum period, and 51% took place within 24 hours of delivery. The study identified gaps in reporting of maternal deaths and also provided profile of the dead women and the causes of death.
PMCID: PMC2761775  PMID: 19489414
Causes of death; Maternal mortality; Risk factors; Socioeconomic factors; Verbal autopsy; Pakistan
18.  Causes of Maternal Mortality Decline in Matlab, Bangladesh 
Bangladesh is distinct among developing countries in achieving a low maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 322 per 100,000 livebirths despite the very low use of skilled care at delivery (13% nationally). This variation has also been observed in Matlab, a rural area in Bangladesh, where longitudinal data on maternal mortality are available since the mid-1970s. The current study investigated the possible causes of the maternal mortality decline in Matlab. The study analyzed 769 maternal deaths and 215,779 pregnancy records from the Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) and other sources of safe motherhood data in the ICDDR,B and government service areas in Matlab during 1976-2005. The major interventions that took place in both the areas since the early 1980s were the family-planning programme plus safe menstrual regulation services and safe motherhood interventions (midwives for normal delivery in the ICDDR,B service area from the late 1980s and equal access to comprehensive emergency obstetric care [EmOC] in public facilities for women from both the areas). National programmes for social development and empowerment of women through education and microcredit programmes were implemented in both the areas. The quantitative findings were supplemented by a qualitative study by interviewing local community care providers for their change in practices for maternal healthcare over time. After the introduction of the safe motherhood programme, reduction in maternal mortality was higher in the ICDDR,B service area (68.6%) than in the government service area (50.4%) during 1986-1989 and 2001-2005. Reduction in the number of maternal deaths due to the fertility decline was higher in the government service area (30%) than in the ICDDR,B service area (23%) during 1979-2005. In each area, there has been substantial reduction in abortion-related mortality—86.7% and 78.3%—in the ICDDR,B and government service areas respectively. Education of women was a strong predictor of the maternal mortality decline in both the areas. Possible explanations for the maternal mortality decline in Matlab are: better access to comprehensive EmOC services, reduction in the total fertility rate, and improved education of women. To achieve the Millenium Development Goal 5 targets, policies that bring further improved comprehensive EmOC, strengthened family-planning services, and expanded education of females are essential.
PMCID: PMC2761779  PMID: 19489410
Causes of death; Delivery; Health services; Health facilities; Healthcare; Maternal health; Maternal mortality; Obstetric care; Risk factors; Bangladesh
19.  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
20.  Postpartum Haemorrhage and Eclampsia: Differences in Knowledge and Care-seeking Behaviour in Two Districts of Bangladesh 
In high- and low-performing districts of Bangladesh, the study explored the demand-side of maternal healthcare by looking at differences in perceived knowledge and care-seeking behaviours of women in relation to postpartum haemorrhage or eclampsia. Haemorrhage and eclampsia are two major causes of maternal mortality in Bangladesh. The study was conducted during July 2006–December 2007. Both postpartum bleeding and eclampsia were recognized by women of different age-groups as severe and life-threatening obstetric complications. However, a gap existed between perception and actual care-seeking behaviours which could contribute to the high rate of maternal deaths associated with these conditions. There were differences in care-seeking practices among women in the two different areas of Bangladesh, which may reflect sociocultural differences, disparities in economic and educational opportunities, and a discrimination in the availability of care.
PMCID: PMC2761783  PMID: 19489413
Beliefs; Care-seeking behaviour; Maternal mortality; Postpartum haemorrhage; Eclampsia; Qualitative research; Bangladesh
21.  Reducing Maternal Mortality and Improving Maternal Health: Bangladesh and MDG 5 
Bangladesh is on its way to achieving the MDG 5 target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015, but the annual rate of decline needs to triple. Although the use of skilled birth attendants has improved over the past 15 years, it remains less than 20% as of 2007 and is especially low among poor, uneducated rural women. Increasing the numbers of skilled birth attendants, deploying them in teams in facilities, and improving access to them through messages on antenatal care to women, have the potential to increase such use. The use of caesarean sections is increasing although not among poor, uneducated rural women. Strengthening appropriate quality emergency obstetric care in rural areas remains the major challenge. Strengthening other supportive services, including family planning and delayed first birth, menstrual regulation, and education of women, are also important for achieving MDG 5.
PMCID: PMC2740701  PMID: 18831225
Maternal health; Maternal mortality; Obstetric care; Quality of care; Bangladesh

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