Background: Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a leading cause of maternal death in Sokoto State, Nigeria, where 95% of women give birth outside of a health facility. Although pilot schemes have demonstrated the value of community-based distribution of misoprostol for the prevention of PPH, none have provided practical insight on taking such programs to scale.
Methods: A community-based system for the distribution of misoprostol tablets (in 600ug) and chlorhexidine digluconate gel 7.1% to mother-newborn dyads was introduced by state government officials and community leaders throughout Sokoto State in April 2013, with the potential to reach an estimated 190,467 annual births. A simple outcome form that collected distribution and consumption data was used to assess the percentage of mothers that received misoprostol at labor through December 2014. Mothers' conditions were tracked through 6 weeks postpartum. Verbal autopsies were conducted on associated maternal deaths.
Results: Misoprostol distribution was successfully introduced and reached mothers in labor in all 244 wards in Sokoto State. Community data collection systems were successfully operational in all 244 wards with reliable capacity to record maternal deaths. 70,982 women or 22% of expected births received misoprostol from April 2013 to December 2014. Between April and December 2013, 33 women (< 1%) reported that heavy bleeding persisted after misoprostol use and were promptly referred. There were a total of 11 deaths in the 2013 cohort which were confirmed as maternal deaths by verbal autopsies. Between January and December of 2014, a total 434 women (1.25%) that ingested misoprostol reported associated side effects.
Conclusion: It is feasible and safe to utilize government guidelines on results-based primary health care to successfully introduce community distribution of life saving misoprostol at scale to reduce PPH and improve maternal outcomes. Lessons from Sokoto State's at-scale program implementation, to assure every mother's right to uterotonics, can inform scale-up elsewhere in Nigeria.