Reduction of severe acute maternal morbidity and maternal mortality in Thyolo District, Malawi: the impact of obstetric audit

PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e20776. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0020776. Epub 2011 Jun 3.


Background: Critical incident audit and feedback are recommended interventions to improve the quality of obstetric care. To evaluate the effect of audit at district level in Thyolo, Malawi, we assessed the incidence of facility-based severe maternal complications (severe acute maternal morbidity (SAMM) and maternal mortality) during two years of audit and feedback.

Methodology/principal findings: Between September 2007 and September 2009, we included all cases of maternal mortality and SAMM that occurred in Thyolo District Hospital, the main referral facility in the area, using validated disease-specific criteria. During two- to three-weekly audit sessions, health workers and managers identified substandard care factors. Resulting recommendations were implemented and followed up. Feedback was given during subsequent sessions. A linear regression analysis was performed on facility-based severe maternal complications. During the two-year study period, 386 women were included: 46 died and 340 sustained SAMM, giving a case fatality rate of 11.9%. Forty-five cases out of the 386 inclusions were audited in plenary with hospital staff. There was a reduction of 3.1 women with severe maternal complications per 1000 deliveries in the district health facilities, from 13.5 per 1000 deliveries in the beginning to 10.4 per 1000 deliveries at the end of the study period. The incidence of uterine rupture and major obstetric hemorrhage reduced considerably (from 3.5 to 0.2 and from 5.9 to 2.6 per 1000 facility deliveries respectively).

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that audit and feedback have the potential to reduce serious maternal complications including maternal mortality. Complications like major hemorrhage and uterine rupture that require relatively straightforward intrapartum emergency management are easier to reduce than those which require uptake of improved antenatal care (eclampsia) or timely intravenous medication or HIV-treatment (peripartum infections).

MeSH terms

  • Commission on Professional and Hospital Activities*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / adverse effects*
  • Delivery, Obstetric / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Maternal Mortality*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications / mortality*