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      Caesarean section provision and readiness in Tanzania: analysis of cross-sectional surveys of women and health facilities over time

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          To describe trends in caesarean sections and facilities performing caesareans over time in Tanzania and examine the readiness of such facilities in terms of infrastructure, equipment and staffing.


          Nationally representative, repeated cross-sectional surveys of women and health facilities.




          Women of reproductive age and health facility staff.

          Main outcome measures

          Population-based caesarean rate, absolute annual number of caesareans, percentage of facilities reporting to perform caesareans and three readiness indicators for safe caesarean care: availability of consistent electricity, 24 hour schedule for caesarean and anaesthesia providers, and availability of all general anaesthesia equipment.


          The caesarean rate in Tanzania increased threefold from 2% in 1996 to 6% in 2015–16, while the total number of births increased by 60%. As a result, the absolute number of caesareans increased almost fivefold to 120 000 caesareans per year. The main mechanism sustaining the increase in caesareans was the doubling of median caesarean volume among public hospitals, from 17 caesareans per month in 2006 to 35 in 2014–15. The number of facilities performing caesareans increased only modestly over the same period. Less than half (43%) of caesareans in Tanzania in 2014–15 were performed in facilities meeting the three readiness indicators. Consistent electricity was widely available, and 24 hour schedules for caesarean and (less systematically) anaesthesia providers were observed in most facilities; however, the availability of all general anaesthesia equipment was the least commonly reported indicator, present in only 44% of all facilities (34% of public hospitals).


          Given the rising trend in numbers of caesareans, urgent improvements in the availability of general anaesthesia equipment and trained anaesthesia staff should be made to ensure the safety of caesareans. Initial efforts should focus on improving anaesthesia provision in public and faith-based organisation hospitals, which together perform more than 90% of all caesareans in Tanzania.

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          Most cited references 43

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          Beyond too little, too late and too much, too soon: a pathway towards evidence-based, respectful maternity care worldwide.

          On the continuum of maternal health care, two extreme situations exist: too little, too late (TLTL) and too much, too soon (TMTS). TLTL describes care with inadequate resources, below evidence-based standards, or care withheld or unavailable until too late to help. TLTL is an underlying problem associated with high maternal mortality and morbidity. TMTS describes the routine over-medicalisation of normal pregnancy and birth. TMTS includes unnecessary use of non-evidence-based interventions, as well as use of interventions that can be life saving when used appropriately, but harmful when applied routinely or overused. As facility births increase, so does the recognition that TMTS causes harm and increases health costs, and often concentrates disrespect and abuse. Although TMTS is typically ascribed to high-income countries and TLTL to low-income and middle-income ones, social and health inequities mean these extremes coexist in many countries. A global approach to quality and equitable maternal health, supporting the implementation of respectful, evidence-based care for all, is urgently needed. We present a systematic review of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for routine antenatal, intrapartum, and postnatal care, categorising them as recommended, recommended only for clinical indications, and not recommended. We also present prevalence data from middle-income countries for specific clinical practices, which demonstrate TLTL and increasing TMTS. Health-care providers and health systems need to ensure that all women receive high-quality, evidence-based, equitable and respectful care. The right amount of care needs to be offered at the right time, and delivered in a manner that respects, protects, and promotes human rights.
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            Caesarean section without medical indications is associated with an increased risk of adverse short-term maternal outcomes: the 2004-2008 WHO Global Survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health

            Background There is worldwide debate about the appropriateness of caesarean sections performed without medical indications. In this analysis, we aim to further investigate the relationship between caesarean section without medical indication and severe maternal outcomes. Methods This is a multicountry, facility-based survey that used a stratified multistage cluster sampling design to obtain a sample of countries and health institutions worldwide. A total of 24 countries and 373 health facilities participated in this study. Data collection took place during 2004 and 2005 in Africa and the Americas and during 2007 and 2008 in Asia. All women giving birth at the facility during the study period were included and had their medical records reviewed before discharge from the hospital. Univariate and multilevel analysis were performed to study the association between each group's mode of delivery and the severe maternal and perinatal outcome. Results A total of 286,565 deliveries were analysed. The overall caesarean section rate was 25.7% and a total of 1.0 percent of all deliveries were caesarean sections without medical indications, either due to maternal request or in the absence of other recorded indications. Compared to spontaneous vaginal delivery, all other modes of delivery presented an association with the increased risk of death, admission to ICU, blood transfusion and hysterectomy, including antepartum caesarean section without medical indications (Adjusted Odds Ratio (Adj OR), 5.93, 95% Confidence Interval (95% CI), 3.88 to 9.05) and intrapartum caesarean section without medical indications (Adj OR, 14.29, 95% CI, 10.91 to 18.72). In addition, this association is stronger in Africa, compared to Asia and Latin America. Conclusions Caesarean sections were associated with an intrinsic risk of increased severe maternal outcomes. We conclude that caesarean sections should be performed when a clear benefit is anticipated, a benefit that might compensate for the higher costs and additional risks associated with this operation.
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              Non-physician clinicians in 47 sub-Saharan African countries.

              Many countries have health-care providers who are not trained as physicians but who take on many of the diagnostic and clinical functions of medical doctors. We identified non-physician clinicians (NPCs) in 25 of 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, although their roles varied widely between countries. In nine countries, numbers of NPCs equalled or exceeded numbers of physicians. In general NPCs were trained with less cost than were physicians, and for only 3-4 years after secondary school. All NPCs did basic diagnosis and medical treatment, but some were trained in specialty activities such as caesarean section, ophthalmology, and anaesthesia. Many NPCs were recruited from rural and poor areas, and worked in these same regions. Low training costs, reduced training duration, and success in rural placements suggest that NPCs could have substantial roles in the scale-up of health workforces in sub-Saharan African countries, including for the planned expansion of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes.

                Author and article information

                BMJ Open
                BMJ Open
                BMJ Open
                BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                4 October 2018
                : 8
                : 9
                [1 ] departmentFaculty of Epidemiology and Population Health , London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine , London, UK
                [2 ] departmentDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynaecology , School of Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences , Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania
                [3 ] departmentDepartment of Public Health Sciences , Karolinska Institutet , Stockholm, Sweden
                [4 ] departmentFaculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases , London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine , London, UK
                [5 ] departmentFistula Care Plus Project , EngenderHealth , New York City, USA
                [6 ] departmentDepartment of Public Health , Institute of Tropical Medicine , Antwerp, Belgium
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Dr Francesca L Cavallaro; francesca.cavallaro@
                © Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2018. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

                This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

                Funded by: FundRef, United States Agency for International Development;
                Obstetrics and Gynaecology
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                delivery care, caesarean section, facility readiness, tanzania


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