Stillbirths and quality of care during labour at the low resource referral hospital of Zanzibar: A case-control study

Nanna Maaløe*, Natasha Housseine, Ib Christian Bygbjerg, Tarek Meguid, Rashid Saleh Khamis, Ali Gharib Mohamed, Birgitte Bruun Nielsen, Jos van Roosmalen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: To study determinants of stillbirths as indicators of quality of care during labour in an East African low resource referral hospital. Methods: A criterion-based unmatched unblinded case-control study of singleton stillbirths with birthweight ≥2000 g (n = 139), compared to controls with birthweight ≥2000 g and Apgar score ≥7 (n = 249). Results: The overall facility-based stillbirth rate was 59 per 1000 total births, of which 25 % was not reported in the hospital's registers. The majority of singletons had birthweight ≥2000 g (n = 139; 79 %), and foetal heart rate was present on admission in 72 (52 %) of these (intra-hospital stillbirths). Overall, poor quality of care during labour was the prevailing determinant of 71 (99 %) intra-hospital stillbirths, and median time from last foetal heart assessment till diagnosis of foetal death or delivery was 210 min. (interquartile range: 75-315 min.). Of intra-hospital stillbirths, 26 (36 %) received oxytocin augmentation (23 % among controls; odds ratio (OR) 1.86, 95 % confidential interval (CI) 1.06-3.27); 15 (58 %) on doubtful indication where either labour progress was normal or less dangerous interventions could have been effective, e.g. rupture of membranes. Substandard management of prolonged labour frequently led to unnecessary caesarean sections. The caesarean section rate among all stillbirths was 26 % (11 % among controls; OR 2.94, 95 % CI 1.68-5.14), and vacuum extraction was hardly ever done. Of women experiencing stillbirth, 27 (19 %) had severe hypertensive disorders (4 % among controls; OR 5.76, 95 % CI 2.70-12.31), but 18 (67 %) of these did not receive antihypertensives. An additional 33 (24 %) did not have blood pressure recorded during active labour. When compared to controls, stillbirths were characterized by longer admissions during labour. However, substandard care was prevalent in both cases and controls and caused potential risks for the entire population. Notably, women with foetal death on admission were in the biggest danger of neglect. Conclusions: Intrapartum management of women experiencing stillbirth was a simple yet strong indicator of quality of care. Substandard care led to perinatal as well as maternal risks, which furthermore were related to unnecessary complex, time consuming, and costly interventions. Improvement of obstetric care is warranted to end preventable birth-related deaths and disabilities. Trial registration: This is the baseline analysis of the PartoMa trial, which is registered on (NCT02318420, 4th November 2014).

Original languageEnglish
Article number351
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2016


  • Caesarean section
  • Case-control study
  • Criterion-based audit
  • Guidelines
  • Labour
  • Low resource
  • Oxytocin
  • Partograph
  • PartoMa
  • Quality of care
  • Severe hypertensive disorders
  • Stillbirths
  • Tanzania


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