A research agenda to improve incidence and outcomes of assisted vaginal birth

Betrán, Ana Pilar, Torloni, Maria Regina, Althabe, Fernando, Altieri, Elena, Arulkumaran, Sabaratnam, Ashraf, Fatema, Bailey, Patricia, Bonet, Mercedes, Bucagu, Maurice et al (2023) A research agenda to improve incidence and outcomes of assisted vaginal birth. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 101 (11). pp. 723-729. ISSN 0042-9686

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.2471/BLT.23.290140


Access to emergency obstetric care, including assisted vaginal birth and caesarean birth, is crucial for improving maternal and childbirth outcomes. However, although the proportion of births by caesarean section has increased during the last few decades, the use of assisted vaginal birth has declined. This is particularly the case in low- and middle-income countries, despite an assisted vaginal birth often being less risky than caesarean birth. We therefore conducted a three-step process to identify a research agenda necessary to increase the use of, or reintroduce, assisted vaginal birth: after conducting an evidence synthesis, which informed a consultation with technical experts who proposed an initial research agenda, we sought and incorporated the views of women's representatives of this agenda. This process has allowed us to identify a comprehensive research agenda, with topics categorized as: (i) the need to understand women's perceptions of assisted vaginal birth, and provide appropriate and reliable information; (ii) the importance of training health-care providers in clinical skills but also in respectful care, effective communication, shared decision-making and informed consent; and (iii) the barriers to and facilitators of implementation and sustainability. From women's feedback, we learned of the urgent need to recognize labour, childbirth and postpartum experiences as inherently physiological and dignified human processes, in which interventions should only be implemented if necessary. The promotion and/or reintroduction of assisted vaginal birth in low-resource settings requires governments, policy-makers and hospital administrators to support skilled health-care providers who can, in turn, respectfully support women in labour and childbirth. [Abstract copyright: (c) 2023 The authors; licensee World Health Organization.]

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