Background: Many pregnant women in resource-poor countries seek care only after developing severe complications during childbirth at home and often reach health facilities in moribund conditions. The objectives were to (i) investigate the association between care-seeking duration and fetal survival at admission; and (ii) assess the significance of care-seeking duration in relation to other determinants.
Methods: Data were analysed for 266 women who were pregnant with a singleton and admitted in life-threatening conditions to the maternity ward of Herat Regional Hospital in Afghanistan from February 2007 to January 2008. Information about the women's care-seeking durations, social and financial resources, reproductive factors, household economic status and household types were collected during interviews with the women and their husbands. Information about fetal heartbeats at admission was extracted from the women's medical records.
Results: Fifty-four per cent of the women had a decision delay lasting 3 h or more; 69% had a transport delay lasting 3 h or more. Multivariable logistic regression analyses suggest that a decision delay lasting an hour or more increased the odds of fetal death by 6.6 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.6, 26.3) compared with a delay less than 1 h. A woman's lack of financial autonomy and a distance from her natal home increased the odds of fetal death by 3.1 [95% CI 1.1, 8.4] and 2.5 [95% CI 1.0, 6.3] respectively.
Conclusion: An integrated approach to improving fetal and maternal health from pre-pregnancy through childbirth (including increasing women's social and financial resources) is crucial particularly where senior family members act as gatekeepers to women's access to health care.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.