Pre-hospital Barriers to Emergency Obstetric Care Studies of Maternal Mortality and Near-miss in Bolivia and Guatemala

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Maternal mortality is a global health concern but inequalities in utilization of maternal health care are not clearly understood. Severe morbidity (near-miss) is receiving increased attention due to methodological difficulties in maternal mortality studies.The present thesis seeks to increase understanding of factors that impede utilization of emergency obstetric care (EmOC) in Bolivia and Guatemala. Studies I and IV employed qualitative interviews to explore the role of traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and the care-seeking behaviour of women who arrived at hospital with a near-miss complication. Studies II–III documented maternal mortality and near-miss morbidity at the hospital level and investigated the influence of socio-demographic factors and antenatal care (ANC) on near-miss upon arrival.The studies identified unfamiliarity with EmOC among TBAs and a lack of collaboration with formal care providers. A perception of being dissociated from the health care system and a mistrust of health care providers was common among near-miss women from disadvantaged social backgrounds. In the Bolivian setting, 187 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 50 cases of near-miss per 1000 were recorded. Causes of near-miss differed from those of maternal deaths. Most women with near-miss arrived at hospital in critical condition: severe preeclampsia, complications after childbirth at home and abortions were mostly encountered among them. Lack of ANC, low education, and rural residence were interactively associated with near-miss. ANC reduced socio-demographic differentials for near-miss.Complementing maternal mortality reviews with data on near-miss morbidity increases the understanding of priority needs and quality of maternal health care. Additionally, focusing on near-miss upon arrival was found useful in exploring pre-hospital barriers to EmOC. The findings identified subgroups of women who seemed especially vulnerable to pre-hospital barriers. They also underscored the need for initiatives to reduce the effect of social marginalization and to acknowledge the influential role of formal and informal care providers on the utilization of EmOC.