The role of antenatal care is being increasingly questioned, particularly in resource poor environments. The low predictability of antenatal markers for adverse maternal outcomes has led some to reject antenatal care as an efficient strategy in the fight against maternal and perinatal mortality. Few studies, however, have assessed the predictability of adverse outcomes other than dystocia or perinatal death, and most studies have been hospital based. This population-based cohort study was undertaken to assess whether prenatal screening can identify women at risk of severe labour or delivery complications in a rural area in Bangladesh. Antenatal risk markers, signs and symptoms were assessed for their association with severe maternal complications including dystocia, malpresentation, haemorrhage, hypertensive diseases, twin delivery and death. The results of the study suggest that antenatal screening by trained midwives fails to adequately distinguish women who will need special care during labour and delivery from those who will not need such care. The large majority of the women with dystocia or haemorrhage had no warning signs during pregnancy. A single blood pressure measurement and the assessment of fundal height, on the other hand, may detect a substantial number of women with hypertensive diseases and twin pregnancies. In addition, women who had an antenatal visit were four times more likely to deliver with a midwife than women who had no antenatal visit. Antenatal care may not be an efficient strategy to identify those most in need for obstetric service delivery, but if promoted in concurrence with effective emergency obstetric care, and delivered in skilled hands, it may become an effective instrument to facilitate better use of emergency obstetric care services.
Vanneste, A.M.; Ronsmans, C.; Chakraborty, J.; De Francisco, A. Prenatal screening in rural Bangladesh: from prediction to care. Health Policy and Planning (2000) 15 (1) 1-10. [DOI: 10.1093/heapol/15.1.1]