If we build it, will they come? Results of a quasi-experimental study assessing the impact of maternity waiting homes on facility-based childbirth and maternity care in Zambia

BMJ Glob Health. 2021 Dec;6(12):e006385. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2021-006385.


Introduction: Maternity waiting homes (MWHs) aim to increase access to maternity and emergency obstetric care by allowing women to stay near a health centre before delivery. An improved MWH model was developed with community input and included infrastructure, policies and linkages to health centres. We hypothesised this MWH model would increase health facility delivery among remote-living women in Zambia.

Methods: We conducted a quasi-experimental study at 40 rural health centres (RHC) that offer basic emergency obstetric care and had no recent stockouts of oxytocin or magnesium sulfate, located within 2 hours of a referral hospital. Intervention clusters (n=20) received an improved MWH model. Control clusters (n=20) implemented standard of care. Clusters were assigned to study arm using a matched-pair randomisation procedure (n=20) or non-randomly with matching criteria (n=20). We interviewed repeated cross-sectional random samples of women in villages 10+ kilometres from their RHC. The primary outcome was facility delivery; secondary outcomes included postnatal care utilisation, counselling, services received and expenditures. Intention-to-treat analysis was conducted. Generalised estimating equations were used to estimate ORs.

Results: We interviewed 2381 women at baseline (March 2016) and 2330 at endline (October 2018). The improved MWH model was associated with increased odds of facility delivery (OR 1.60 (95% CI: 1.13 to 2.27); p<0.001) and MWH utilisation (OR 2.44 (1.62 to 3.67); p<0.001). The intervention was also associated with increased odds of postnatal attendance (OR 1.55 (1.10 to 2.19); p<0.001); counselling for family planning (OR 1.48 (1.15 to 1.91); p=0.002), breast feeding (OR 1.51 (1.20 to 1.90); p<0.001), and kangaroo care (OR 1.44 (1.15, 1.79); p=0.001); and caesarean section (OR 1.71 (1.16 to 2.54); p=0.007). No differences were observed in household expenditures for delivery.

Conclusion: MWHs near well-equipped RHCs increased access to facility delivery, encouraged use of facilities with emergency care capacity, and improved exposure to counselling. MWHs can be useful in the effort to increase delivery at advanced facilities in areas where substantial numbers of women live remotely.

Trial registration number: NCT02620436.

Keywords: health services research; intervention study; maternal health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Rural Population
  • Zambia

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02620436