The role of maternity waiting homes as part of a comprehensive maternal mortality reduction strategy
PIH REPORTS: VOLUME 1, ISSUE 1 SEPTEMBER 2013
Maternity waiting homes are built near a facility with essential obstetric services and allow pregnant women to travel there several weeks before delivery, wait for the onset of labor, and be quickly transferred to the facility for safe delivery. They have been introduced in many developing countries, but their efficacy in decreasing maternal mortality remains controversial. In Lesotho, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, Partners In Health (PIH) has included maternity waiting homes since 2009 as part of a comprehensive effort to increase facility-based deliveries and reduce maternal mortality. The maternity waiting homes are located at seven PIH-supported health centers in some of the most remote, underserved areas of rural Lesotho. The homes provide food and shelter for women who live far away from the health center or have risk factors for potential obstetric complications, and are well-regarded by both health center staff and pregnant women. Since the implementation of the Maternal Mortality Reduction Project, PIH has seen waiting home admissions and the number of monthly deliveries at health centers increase dramatically. Failure of previous studies to demonstrate a positive impact of maternity waiting homes may reflect the failure to successfully implement other supporting components of a larger, comprehensive strategy to increase access to maternal health services.
PIH Reports presents issues related to public health program implementation in resource-limited settings. They are intended to complement traditional academic publishing by sharing evidence and knowledge from the field that may not fit the constraints of peer-reviewed literature. The intended audience for PIH Reports includes health providers, implementers, donors, and policymakers.