Safe Abortion

Training Traditional Birth Attendants on the Use of Misoprostol and a Blood Measurement Tool to Prevent Postpartum Haemorrhage: Lessons Learnt from Bangladesh

A consensus emerged in the late 1990s among leaders in global maternal health that traditional birth attendants (TBAs) should no longer be trained in delivery skills and should instead be trained as promoters of facility-based care. Many TBAs continue to be trained in places where home deliveries are the norm and the potential impacts of this training are important to understand. The primary objective of this study was to gain a more nuanced understanding of the full impact of training TBAs to use misoprostol and a blood measurement tool (mat) for the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) at home deliveries through the perspective of those involved in the project. This qualitative study, conducted between July 2009 and July 2010 in Bangladesh, was nested within larger operations research, testing the feasibility and acceptability of scaling up community-based provision of misoprostol and a blood measurement tool for prevention of PPH. A total of 87 in-depth interviews (IDIs) were conducted with TBAs, community health workers (CHWs), managers, and government-employed family welfare visitors (FWVs) at three time points during the study. Computer-assisted thematic data analysis was conducted using ATLAS.ti (version 5.2). Four primary themes emerged during the data analysis, which all highlight changes that occurred following the training. The first theme describes the perceived direct changes linked to the two new interventions. The following three themes describe the indirect changes that interviewees perceived: strengthened linkages between TBAs and the formal healthcare system; strengthened linkages between TBAs and the communities they serve; and improved quality of services/service utilization. The data indicate that training TBAs and CHW supervisors resulted in perceived broader and more nuanced changes than simply improvements in TBAs’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices. Acknowledgeing TBAs’ important role in the community and in home deliveries and integrating them into the formal healthcare system has the potential to result in changes similar to those seen in this study.

Training traditional birth attendants to use misoprostol and an absorbent delivery mat in home births.

A 50-fold disparity in maternal mortality exists between high- and low-income countries, and in most contexts, the single most common cause of maternal death is postpartum hemorrhage (PPH). In Bangladesh, as in many other low-income countries, the majority of deliveries are conducted at home by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) or family members. In the absence of skilled birth attendants, training TBAs in the use of misoprostol and an absorbent delivery mat to measure postpartum blood loss may strengthen the ability of TBAs to manage PPH. These complementary interventions were tested in operations research among 77,337 home births in rural Bangladesh. The purpose of this study was to evaluate TBAs' knowledge acquisition, knowledge retention, and changes in attitudes and practices related to PPH management in home births after undergoing training on the use of misoprostol and the blood collection delivery mat. We conclude that the training was highly effective and that the two interventions were safely and correctly used by TBAs at home births. Data on TBA practices indicate adherence to protocol, and 18 months after the interventions were implemented, TBA knowledge retention remained high. This program strengthens the case for community-based use of misoprostol and warrants consideration of this intervention as a potential model for scale-up in settings where complete coverage of skilled birth attendants (SBAs) remains a distant goal.

Maternal mortality in developing countries: challenges in scaling-up priority interventions.

Although maternal mortality is a significant global health issue, achievements in mortality decline to date have been inadequate. A review of the interventions targeted at maternal mortality reduction demonstrates that most developing countries face tremendous challenges in the implementation of these interventions, including the availability of unreliable data and the shortage in human and financial resources, as well as limited political commitment. Examples from developing countries, such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Honduras, demonstrate that maternal mortality will decline when appropriate strategies are in place. Such achievable strategies need to include redoubled commitments on the part of local, national and global political bodies, concrete investments in high-yield and cost-effective interventions and the delegation of some clinical tasks from higher-level healthcare providers to mid- or lower-level healthcare providers, as well as improved health-management information systems.

Setting priorities for safe motherhood interventions in resource-scarce settings

Objective: Guide policy-makers in prioritizing safe motherhood interventions.

Methods: Three models (LOW, MED, HIGH) were constructed based on 34 sub-Saharan African countries to assess the relative cost-effectiveness of available safe motherhood interventions. Cost and effectiveness data were compiled and inserted into the WHO Mother Baby Package Costing Spreadsheet. For each model we assessed the percentage in maternal mortality reduction after implementing all interventions, and optimal combinations of interventions given restricted budgets of US$ 0.50, US$ 1.00, US$ 1.50 per capital maternal health expenditures respectively for LOW, MED, and HIGH models.

Results: The most cost-effective interventions were family planning and safe abortion (fpsa), antenatal care including misoprostol distribution for postpartum hemorrhage prevention at home deliveries (anc-miso), followed by sepsis treatment (sepsis) and facility-based postpartum hemorrhage management (pph).

Maternal mortality: one death every 7 min

This comment in the explores the role of policy and research in using the prevention of postpartum hemorrhage and suggest a joint meeting by WHO and FIGO to revisit the 2009 statement by WHO which does not recommend the use of misoprostol at the community level.

Saving maternal lives in resource-poor settings: Facing reality

Literature review to identify interventions that require minimal treatment/infrastructure and are not dependent on skilled providers. Simulations were run to assess the potential number of maternal lives that could be saved through intervention implementation according to potential program impact. Regional and country level estimates are provided as examples of settings that would most benefit from proposed interventions.

Three interventions were identified: (i) improve access to contraception; (ii) increase efforts to reduce deaths from unsafe abortion; and (iii) increase access to misoprostol to control postpartum hemorrhage (including for home births). The combined effect of postpartum hemorrhage and unsafe abortion prevention would result in the greatest gains in maternal deaths averted. Bold new initiatives are needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters. Ninety-nine percent of maternal deaths occur in developing countries and the majority of thes ewomen deliver alone, or with a traditional birth attendant. It is time for maternal health program planners to reprioritize interventions in the face of human and financial resource constraints. The three proposed interventions address the largest part of the maternal health burden.

© 2008 Elsevier Ireland

published in Health Policy 2009