The Quality of Clinical Maternal and Neonatal Healthcare – A Strategy for Identifying ‘Routine Care Signal Functions’
BACKGROUND Each year, approximately 2 million babies die because of complications of childbirth, primarily in settings where effective care at birth, particularly prompt cesarean delivery, is unavailable. OBJECTIVE We reviewed the content, impact, risk-benefit, and feasibility of interventions for obstetric complications with high population attributable risk of intrapartum-related hypoxic injury, as well as human resource, skill development, and technological innovations to improve obstetric care quality and availability. RESULTS Despite ecological associations of obstetric care with improved perinatal outcomes, there is limited evidence that intrapartum interventions reduce intrapartum-related neonatal mortality or morbidity. No interventions had high-quality evidence of impact on intrapartum-related outcomes in low-resource settings. While data from high-resource settings support planned cesarean for breech presentation and post-term induction, these interventions may be unavailable or less safe in low-resource settings and require risk-benefit assessment. Promising interventions include use of the partograph, symphysiotomy, amnioinfusion, therapeutic maneuvers for shoulder dystocia, improved management of intra-amniotic infections, and continuous labor support. Obstetric drills, checklists, and innovative low-cost devices could improve care quality. Task-shifting to alternative cadres may increase coverage of care. CONCLUSIONS While intrapartum care aims to avert intrapartum-related hypoxic injury, rigorous evidence is lacking, especially in the settings where most deaths occur. Effective care at birth could save hundreds of thousands of lives a year, with investment in health infrastructure, personnel, and research--both for innovation and to improve implementation.