To illustrate the variability in the use of antibiotic prophylaxis for caesarean section, and its effect on the prevention of postoperative infections.
Secondary analysis of a cross-sectional study.
Twenty-nine countries participating in the World Health Organization Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health.
Three hundred and fifty-nine health facilities with the capacity to perform caesarean section.
Descriptive analysis and effect estimates using multilevel logistic regression.
Coverage of antibiotic prophylaxis for caesarean section.
A total of 89 121 caesarean sections were performed in 332 of the 359 facilities included in the survey; 87% under prophylactic antibiotic coverage. Thirty five facilities provided 0-49% coverage and 77 facilities provided 50-89% coverage. Institutional coverage of prophylactic antibiotics varied greatly within most countries, and was related to guideline use and the practice of clinical audits, but not to the size, location of the institution or development index of the country. Mothers with complications, such as HIV infection, anaemia, or pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, were more likely to receive antibiotic prophylaxis. At the same time, mothers undergoing caesarean birth prior to labour and those with indication for scheduled deliveries were also more likely to receive antibiotic prophylaxis, despite their lower risk of infection, compared with mothers undergoing emergency caesarean section.
Coverage of antibiotic prophylaxis for caesarean birth may be related to the perception of the importance of guidelines and clinical audits in the facility. There may also be a tendency to use antibiotics when caesarean section has been scheduled and antibiotic prophylaxis is already included in the routine clinical protocol. This study may act as a signal to re-evaluate institutional practices as a way to identify areas where improvement is possible.