In high-income countries, a reduced clinical threshold for obstetric interventions such as labour induction (LI) and prelabour caesarean delivery (PLCD) has played a substantial role in increasing rates of late preterm births. However, the association between provider-initiated delivery and perinatal outcomes have not been studied in a multicountry setting including low-income and middle-income countries.
286 hospitals in 29 countries participated in the WHO Multi-Country Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health and yielded 2 52 198 singleton births of at least 34 weeks in 2010-2011. We used an ecological analysis based on generalised estimating equations under multilevel logistic regression to estimate associations between hospital rates of PLCD and LI with rates of late preterm birth (34-36 weeks), stillbirth and intrahospital early neonatal death, in relation to country development based on the Human Development Index (HDI).
Rates of LI were higher in hospitals from very high-HDI (median 10.9%) and high-HDI (11.2%) countries compared with medium-HDI (4.0%) or low-HDI (3.8%) countries. Rates of PLCD were by far the lowest in low-HDI countries compared with countries in the other three categories (5.1% vs 12.0%-17.9%). Higher rates of PLCD were associated with lower perinatal death rates (OR 0.87 (0.79, 0.95) per 5% increase in PLCD) and non-significantly with late preterm birth (1.04 (0.98, 1.10)) regardless of country development. LI rates were positively associated with late preterm birth (1.04 (1.01, 1.06)) regardless of country development and with perinatal death (1.06 (0.98, 1.15)) only in middle-HDI and low- HDI countries.
PLCD was associated with reduced perinatal mortality and non-significantly with increased late preterm birth. LI was associated with increases in both late preterm birth and, in less-developed countries, perinatal mortality. Efforts to provide sufficient, but avoid excessive, access to provider-initiated delivery should be tailored to the local context.