Readiness to Provide Antenatal Corticosteroids for Threatened Preterm Birth in Public Health Facilities in Northern India

In 2014, the Government of India (GOI) released operational guidelines on the use of antenatal corticosteroids (ACS) in preterm labor. However, without ensuring the quality of childbirth and newborn care at facilities, the use of ACS in low- and middle-income countries is potentially harmful. This study assessed the readiness to provide ACS at primary and secondary care public health facilities in northern India.

A cross-sectional study was conducted in 37 public health facilities in 2 districts of Haryana, India. Facility processes and program implementation for ACS delivery were assessed using pretested study tools developed from the World Health Organization (WHO) quality of care standards and WHO guidelines for threatened preterm birth.

Key gaps in public health facilities’ process of care to provide ACS for threatened preterm birth were identified, particularly concerning evidence-based practices, competent workforce, and actionable health information system. Emphasis on accurate gestational age estimation, quality of childbirth care, and quality of preterm care were inadequate. Shortage of trained staff was widespread, and a disconnect was found between knowledge and attitudes regarding ACS use. ACS administration was provided only at district or subdistrict hospitals, and these facilities did not uniformly record ACS-specific indicators. All levels lacked a comprehensive protocol and job aids for identifying and managing threatened preterm birth.

ACS operational guidelines were not widely disseminated or uniformly implemented. Facilities require strengthened supervision and standardization of threatened preterm birth care. Facilities need greater readiness to meet required conditions for ACS use. Increasing uptake of a single intervention without supporting it with adequate quality of maternal and newborn care will jeopardize improvement in preterm birth outcomes. We recommend updating and expanding the existing GOI ACS operational guidelines to include specific actions for the safe and effective use of ACS in line with recent scientific evidence.

Economic Consequences of Caesarean Section Delivery: Evidence From a Household Survey in Tanzania

Background: Caesarean section (C-section) delivery is an important indicator of access to life-saving essential obstetric care. Yet, there is limited understanding of the costs of utilising C-section delivery care in sub-Saharan Africa. Thus, we estimated the direct and indirect patient cost of accessing C-section in Tanzania

Methods: Cross-sectional survey data of 2012 was used, which covered 3000 households from 11 districts in three regions. We interviewed women who had given births in the last 12 months before the survey to capture their experience of care. We used a regression model to estimate the effect of C-section on costs, while inequality on C-section coverage and delivery costs were assessed with a concentration index.

Results: C-section increased the likelihood of paying for health care by 16% compared to normal delivery. The additional cost of C-section compared to normal delivery was 20 USD, but reduced to about 11 USD when restricted to public facilities. Women with C-section delivery spent an extra 2 days at the health facility compared to normal delivery, but this was reduced slightly to 1.9 days in public facilities. The distribution of C-section coverage was significantly in favour of wealthier than poorest women (CI=0.2052, p<0.01), and this pro-rich pattern was consistent in rural districts but with unclear pattern in urban districts.

Conclusions: C-section is a life-saving intervention but is associated with significant economic burden especially among the poor families. More health resources are needed for provision of free maternal care, reduce inequality in access and improve birth outcomes in Tanzania.

Availability of facility resources and services and infection-related maternal outcomes in the WHO Global Maternal Sepsis Study: a cross-sectional study

Infections are among the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity. The Global Maternal Sepsis and Neonatal Initiative, launched in 2016 by WHO and partners, sought to reduce the burden of maternal infections and sepsis and was the basis upon which the Global Maternal Sepsis Study (GLOSS) was implemented in 2017. In this Article, we aimed to describe the availability of facility resources and services and to analyse their association with maternal outcomes.
GLOSS was a facility-based, prospective, 1-week inception cohort study implemented in 713 health-care facilities in 52 countries and included 2850 hospitalised pregnant or recently pregnant women with suspected or confirmed infections. All women admitted for or in hospital with suspected or confirmed infections during pregnancy, childbirth, post partum, or post abortion at any of the participating facilities between Nov 28 and Dec 4 were eligible for inclusion. In this study, we included all GLOSS participating facilities that collected facility-level data (446 of 713 facilities). We used data obtained from individual forms completed for each enrolled woman and their newborn babies by trained researchers who checked the medical records and from facility forms completed by hospital administrators for each participating facility. We described facilities according to country income level, compliance with providing core clinical interventions and services according to women’s needs and reported availability, and severity of infection-related maternal outcomes. We used a logistic multilevel mixed model for assessing the association between facility characteristics and infection-related maternal outcomes.
We included 446 facilities from 46 countries that enrolled 2560 women. We found a high availability of most services and resources needed for obstetric care and infection prevention. We found increased odds for severe maternal outcomes among women enrolled during the post-partum or post-abortion period from facilities located in low-income countries (adjusted odds ratio 1·84 [95% CI 1·05–3·22]) and among women enrolled during pregnancy or childbirth from non-urban facilities (adjusted odds ratio 2·44 [1·02–5·85]). Despite compliance being high overall, it was low with regards to measuring respiratory rate (85 [24%] of 355 facilities) and measuring pulse oximetry (184 [57%] of 325 facilities).
While health-care facilities caring for pregnant and recently pregnant women with suspected or confirmed infections have access to a wide range of resources and interventions, worse maternal outcomes are seen among recently pregnant women located in low-income countries than among those in higher-income countries; this trend is similar for pregnant women. Compliance with cost-effective clinical practices and timely care of women with particular individual characteristics can potentially improve infection-related maternal outcomes.
UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction, WHO, Merck for Mothers, and US Agency for International Development.

Magnitude, Factors Associated with Cesarean Delivery and Its Appropriateness

Inappropriate use of CS can have profoundly negative consequences for women and the broader community. A recent meeting of the International Confederation of Midwifes, the International Federation of Gynecologists and Obstetrics and the Gates Foundation to discuss the impact of rising CS rates on maternal and infant mortality in LMICs highlights the international importance of the issue. Knowledge of CS determinants is a first step in the effort to define strategies to reduce unnecessary CSs. Previous studies showed that the main reasons for performing CS are clinical factors. However, non-clinical factors such as demographic, health system factors, organizational variables were overlooked determinants that best predicted which women have a higher risk of CS.

Essential Package of Palliative Care for Women With Cervical Cancer: Responding to the Suffering of a Highly Vulnerable Population

Women with cervical cancer, especially those with advanced disease, appear to experience suffering that is more prevalent, complex, and severe than that caused by other cancers and serious illnesses, and approximately 85% live in low- and middle-income countries where palliative care is rarely accessible. To respond to the highly prevalent and extreme suffering in this vulnerable population, we convened a group of experienced experts in all aspects of care for women with cervical cancer, and from countries of all income levels, to create an essential package of palliative care for cervical cancer (EPPCCC). The EPPCCC consists of a set of interventions, medicines, simple equipment, social supports, and human resources, and is designed to be safe and effective for preventing and relieving all types of suffering associated with cervical cancer. It includes only inexpensive and readily available medicines and equipment, and its use requires only basic training. Thus, the EPPCCC can and should be made accessible everywhere, including for the rural poor. We provide guidance for integrating the EPPCCC into gynecologic and oncologic care at all levels of health care systems, and into primary care, in countries of all income levels.

Synthesizing postpartum care pathways, facilitators, and barriers for women after cesarean section: a qualitative analysis from rural Rwanda

In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), c-section is the most commonly performed operation, and surgical site infection (SSI) is the most common post-operative complication following all surgical procedures performed. Whilst multiple interventions have been rolled out to address high SSI rates, strategies for optimal care of patients at risk of developing SSIs need to include an understanding of the general care seeking behaviors, facilitators, and barriers among high-risk groups, including mothers delivering via c-section. This study explores the healthcare experiences of women who delivered by c-section section, from giving birth through recovery, and their associated decision-making, perceptions of care, and social and financial supports.

We conducted protocol-guided interviews in rural Kirehe District, Rwanda with twenty-five mothers who delivered by c-section at Kirehe District Hospital between February-April 2018, exploring their experience with delivery, hospitalization, recovery, and complications. Coded interviews were analyzed using the Grounded Theory approach to identify emergent themes. Thematic saturation was achieved.

Overall, women largely followed the tiered referral system, as it was designed. A majority faced financial barriers to returning to care, and a majority were not able to describe the reason for their c-section, the complications experienced, or the treatment prescribed. We constructed a process map to summarize key steps where interventions should be designed to promote facilitators, to reduce barriers, and to identify and target the women being diverted from this designated path.

Understanding the existing healthcare pathway and the associated facilitators and barriers among postpartum women is critical to designing appropriate interventions that properly serve their needs. Our findings strongly suggest that moving or complimenting post-operative wound assessments from the health center into home-based care, and ensuring unified messaging around c-section indications, care, and complications at the community-level are two of the areas that may improve utilization of existing healthcare infrastructure for women who deliver by c-section in rural districts in Rwanda.

Improving the experience of facility-based delivery for vulnerable women through obstetric care navigation: a qualitative evaluation

Global disparities in maternal mortality could be reduced by universal facility delivery. Yet, deficiencies in the quality of care prevent some mothers from seeking facility-based obstetric care. Obstetric care navigators (OCNs) are a new form of lay health workers that combine elements of continuous labor support and care navigation to promote obstetric referrals. Here we report qualitative results from the pilot OCN project implemented in Indigenous villages in the Guatemalan central highlands.

We conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 mothers who received OCN accompaniment and 13 staff—namely physicians, nurses, and social workers—of the main public hospital in the pilot’s catchment area (Chimaltenango). Interviews queried OCN’s impact on patient and hospital staff experience and understanding of intended OCN roles. Audiorecorded interviews were transcribed, coded, and underwent content analysis.

Maternal fear of surgical intervention, disrespectful and abusive treatment, and linguistic barriers were principal deterrents of care seeking. Physicians and nurses reported cultural barriers, opposition from family, and inadequate hospital resources as challenges to providing care to Indigenous mothers. Patient and hospital staff identified four valuable services offered by OCNs: emotional support, patient advocacy, facilitation of patient-provider communication, and care coordination. While patients and most physicians felt that OCNs had an overwhelmingly positive impact, nurses felt their effort would be better directed toward traditional nursing tasks.

Many barriers to maternity care exist for Indigenous mothers in Guatemala. OCNs can improve mothers’ experiences in public hospitals and reduce limitations faced by providers. However, broader buy-in from hospital staff—especially nurses—appears critical to program success. Future research should focus on measuring the impact of obstetric care navigation on key clinical outcomes (cesarean delivery) and mothers’ future care seeking behavior.

Dataset evaluating the treatment timeliness of cervical cancer in Zambia

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer diagnosed among women globally. Effective screening routines and early detection are vital in reducing its disease burden and mortality. Several factors can influence the timely detection and treatment of cervical cancer, especially in low middle-income countries where the burden of this disease is highest. The data presented in this paper relates to the research article “Cervical cancer diagnosis and treatment delays in the developing world: Evidence from a hospital-based study in Zambia”. The raw and analysed data include the studied patients’ social demographic factors, clinical data concerning the stage and histological subtype of cancer, dates at which the various activities within the cancer treatment pathway occurred and delays to definitive treatment of cervical cancer at Zambia’s only cancer treatment facility. Detailing delays to the treatment of cervical cancer allows recognition of specific points in the cancer treatment pathway requiring intervention to effectively improve cancer care and reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the disease.

Assessing service availability and readiness to manage cervical cancer in Bangladesh

The second most common cancer among females in Bangladesh is cervical cancer. The national strategy for cervical cancer needs monitoring to ensure that patients have access to care. In order to provide accurate information to policymakers in Bangladesh and other low and middle income countries, it is vital to assess current service availability and readiness to manage cervical cancer at health facilities in Bangladesh.

An interviewer-administered questionnaire adapted from the World Health Organization Service Availability and Readiness Assessment Standard Tool was used to collect cross-sectional data from health administrators of 323 health facilities in Bangladesh. Services provided were categorized into domains and service readiness was determined by mean readiness index (RI) scores. Data analysis was conducted using STATA version 13.

There were seven tertiary and specialized hospitals, 118 secondary level health facilities, 124 primary level health facilities, and 74 NGO/private hospitals included in the study. Twenty-six per cent of the health facilities provided services to cancer patients. Among the 34 tracer items used to assess cancer management capacity of health facilities, four cervical cancer-specific tracer items were used to determine service readiness for cervical cancer. On average, tertiary and specialized hospitals surpassed the readiness index cutoff of 70% with adequate staff and training (100%), equipment (100%), and diagnostic facilities (85.7%), indicating that they were ready to manage cervical cancer. The mean RI scores for the rest of the health facilities were below the cutoff value, meaning that they were not prepared to provide adequate cervical cancer services.

The health facilities in Bangladesh (except for some tertiary hospitals) lack readiness in cervical cancer management in terms of guidelines on diagnosis and treatment, training of staff, and shortage of equipment. Given that cervical cancer accounts for more than one-fourth of all female cancers in Bangladesh, management of cervical cancer needs to be available at all levels of health facilities, with primary level facilities focusing on early diagnosis. It is recommended that appropriate standard operating procedures on cervical cancer be developed for each level of health facilities to contribute towards attaining sustainable developmental goals.

Gender-role behaviour and gender identity in girls with classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Girls with classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) are exposed to excess fetal adrenal androgens in-utero, and often born with masculinised genitalia. They are conventionally reared as females, but show more “boyish” gender-role behaviour (GRB) and gender-identity (GI) issues in childhood and adolescence. Male-rearing is also reported mainly due to delayed treatment and/or socio-cultural factors. We compared GRB/GI in girls with CAH with healthy age matched children, and explored for associations with socio-demographic and diagnosis/treatment related factors.

GRB and GI were assessed using the Gender Identity Questionnaire for children (GIQC) in 27 girls with classical CAH at a specialised clinic, and compared with 50 age-matched healthy controls, with exploratory-analysis based on socio-demographic and diagnosis/treatment-related factors.

Girls with CAH had lower total GIQC scores compared to healthy children (3.29 vs. 4.04, p = < 0.001) with lower GRB score (3.39 vs. 4.23, p < 0.001), and tendency for lower GI score (3.19 vs. 3.5, p = 0.08). Exploratory analysis showed no differences based on diagnosis/treatment factors including age, degree of virilisation at diagnosis and surgical procedures. and only subtle changes based on ethnicity and maternal education.

Girls with CAH managed at a specialised centre showed more masculinised GRB and tendency for ambiguous GI, which did not vary upon diagnosis/treatment related factors, suggesting that prenatal androgen exposure was the likely contributor. Clinicians should be vigilant about the increased risk of gender-related problems in girls with CAH, irrespective of sociocultural background and despite early treatment.