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Non-Clinical Medicine - Obstetrics - Public Health and Epidemiology


Skilled Birth Attendants: Who is Who? A Descriptive Study of Definitions and Roles from Nine Sub Saharan African Countries
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Author: Adetoro Adegoke et al.

by Adetoro Adegoke, Bettina Utz, Sia E. Msuya, Nynke van den Broek

Background

Availability of a Skilled Birth Attendant (SBA) during childbirth is a key indicator for MDG5 and a strategy for reducing maternal and neonatal mortality in Africa. There is limited information on how SBAs and their functions are defined. The aim of this study was to map the cadres of health providers considered SBAs in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA); to describe which signal functions of Essential Obstetric Care (EmOC) they perform and assess whether they are legislated to perform these functions.

Methods and Findings

Key personnel in the Ministries of Health, teaching institutions, referral, regional and district hospitals completed structured questionnaires in nine SSA countries in 2009–2011. A total of 21 different cadres of health care providers (HCP) were reported to be SBA. Type and number of EmOC signal functions reported to be provided, varied substantially between cadres and countries. Parenteral antibiotics, uterotonic drugs and anticonvulsants were provided by most SBAs. Removal of retained products of conception and assisted vaginal delivery were the least provided signal functions. Except for the cadres of obstetricians, medical doctors and registered nurse-midwives, there was lack of clarity regarding signal functions reported to be performed and whether they were legislated to perform these. This was particularly for manual removal of placenta, removal of retained products and assisted vaginal delivery. In some countries, cadres not considered SBA performed deliveries and provided EmOC signal functions. In other settings, cadres reported to be SBA were able to but not legislated to perform key EmOC signal functions.

Conclusions

Comparison of cadres of HCPs reported to be SBA across countries is difficult because of lack of standardization in names, training, and functions performed. There is a need for countries to develop clear guidelines defining who is a SBA and which EmOC signal functions each cadre of HCP is expected to provide.

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