Maternity care in rural Nepal: a health service analysis
This study assesses the performance of maternity care and its specific service components (preventive interventions in antenatal care, antenatal screening, referral, obstetric care) in Banke District, Nepal, using a set of structure, process, and output/outcome indicators. Data sources included health service documents in 14 first level health units and two hospitals, covering 1378 pregnancies and 1323 deliveries, structured observations, antenatal exit interviews (n = 136) and interviews with maternity users (n = 146). Coverage of antenatal care (28%) and skilled delivery care (16%) was low. In antenatal care, preventive interventions were only partially implemented (effective iron supplementation in 17% of users). On average one minute was spent on individual counselling per consultation. 41% of pregnancies were identified as high risk and 15% received referral advice, which was followed in only 32%. Hospital deliveries accounted for 9.8% of all deliveries. Hospital-based maternal mortality was 6.8/1000 births and the stillbirth rate 70/1000. High rates of stillbirth were observed in breech delivery (258/1000 births), caesarean section (143/1000) and twin delivery (133/1000). The risk of stillbirth was higher for rural women (RR 2.3; 95% CI 1.51–3.50) and appeared to be related to low socio-economic status. Emergency admissions were rare and accounted for 3.4% of hospital deliveries or only 0.4% of all expected deliveries. There was hardly any accumulation of high-risk pregnancies at hospital. The population-based rate of caesarean section was 1.1% (urban 2.3%, rural 0.2%). The estimated unmet obstetric need was high (82 cases or 61% of expected live-threatening maternal conditions did not receive appropriate intervention). The limited effectiveness of maternity care is the result of deficiencies of all service components. We propose a two-pronged approach by starting quality improvement of maternity care from both ends of maternity services: preventive interventions for all women and hospital-based obstetric care. Antenatal screening needs to be rationalized by reducing inflated risk catalogues that result in stereotypical and often rejected referral advice.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: September 1, 2000