Characteristics of mother and delivery
A total of 170 deliveries were observed out of 1090 eligible vaginal deliveries at the study site. During the study period, 25 medical doctors, 28 midwives, and 25 nurses were observed throughout their intrapartum practice out of 28 doctors, 31 midwives, and 27 nurses working in the ward. A comparison of the characteristics of the study participants (n=170) and non-observed cases (n=920) is shown in Table 1. The proportion of primiparous women was significantly higher in the observed group than in the non-observed group.
The characteristics of the parturient women, delivery processes, and maternal and neonatal outcomes are shown in Table 2. The proportions of term deliveries and women without complications were 89% and 78%, respectively. Most mothers delivered spontaneously, while vacuum extraction or forceps were applied in 16 cases (9%). Deliveries during dayshifts (6 am to 6 pm) or night shifts (6 pm to 6 am) were almost equivalent. A midwife was the most common birth attendant for vaginal delivery. The prevalence of 3rd or 4th degree of perineal or vaginal lacerations (OASIS) was 17%. Twenty-eight babies (17%) required resuscitation or admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.
Description of intrapartum care during the 2nd and 3rd stage of labour
Table 3 presents a description of intrapartum care during the 2nd and 3rd stages of labour.
Position during the 2nd stage of labour: All mothers had either a semi-Fowler's or a supine position at the birth of the baby.
Method of pushing: In 26% of births the Valsalva manoeuvre was applied to encourage mothers to keep pushing without breathing.
Episiotomy: Episiotomy was performed by the median method in 58% of all mothers, and in 2% by the medio-lateral method. Local anaesthesia for episiotomy was rarely used (for only one woman). The episiotomy rate was 92% in the primiparae subgroup.
Fundal Pressure: Fundal pressure was performed in 31% of participating mothers. The fundal pressure manoeuvre involved the healthcare provider placing their forearm on the fundus and grasping the handle located on the side of the delivery bed with another hand, forming a “T-shape”, then applying pressure. The initiation of fundal pressure, within 30 minutes of full dilatation of the cervix or after admittance into the delivery room, was observed in 62% of observed cases.
Foetal heart rate monitoring: More than half of the mothers did not receive FHR monitoring during the 2nd stage. The median frequency and interval of the intermittent auscultation was once (IQR 1-2) and 19 minutes (IQR 13-32), respectively.
Labour augmentation by oxytocin: Intramuscular or intravenous oxytocin injection was performed in 24 women. Observation of uterine contraction was not conducted during or immediately after the injection.
Prophylactic use of oxytocin during the third stage of labour: All 170 cases received intramuscular injection of oxytocin. However, 21 cases (12%) did not receive the full defined dose (10 IU) as recommended in the national guideline, since two to five units of oxytocin were injected for labour augmentation during the 2nd stage.
Delayed umbilical cord clamping: Delayed umbilical cord clamping is recommended in the national guideline when the baby does not require resuscitation. However, it was applied in only 50% of deliveries out of 138 cases observed.
Controlled cord traction: Most of the placental deliveries were conducted using CCT (99%). Suprapubic counter pressure was applied in 93% of the CCT cases.
Uterine massage: After delivery of the placenta, uterine massage was performed in 11 women (7%).
Perception of potentially harmful practices and the evidence behind the guidelines
We conducted semi-structured interviews with 16 medical doctors, 19 midwives, and 4 nurses. We recruited healthcare providers each time episiotomy or fundal pressure was observed. For FGDs, six doctors, five nurses, and six midwives participated. The participants were selected using convenience sampling based on their availability. Three sessions were organised separately for medical doctors, midwives, and nurses. Each FGD lasted about 1.5 hours.
Interviews and FGDs with healthcare providers explored their understanding and perceptions of conducting potentially harmful practices.
Perception of the episiotomy in primiparae: Healthcare providers reported that primiparae without episiotomy were at risk of OASIS due to the characteristic of their vagina and perineum, such as “small”, “not elastic”, “contracted”, and “tight”; and that episiotomy was a protective measure against severe, zigzag, or multiple laceration. Some doctors and midwives also said that such laceration is “difficult to suture” and “takes time to repair”, while they were tending to many deliveries. “Large baby” was one of the reasons to perform episiotomy. Providers assessed the size of the baby by the fundal height; however, the evaluation of foetal macrosomia differed by person, ranging from 28 cm to 32 cm. Providers reported recognising negative effects of episiotomy, such as “infection”, “pain”, and “blood loss”.
Perception of fundal pressure: Although all healthcare providers knew that fundal pressure is not recommended in the national guidelines, from their experiences they believed that it was effective to “help the baby’s head descending”, “accelerate the 2nd stage”, or “hasten the delivery”. Reported reasons for performing fundal pressure included “foetal head descending is not improving”; “long or prolonged 2nd stage”; and “weak maternal pushing and maternal effort failed”, described as “mother stopped pushing in a few seconds”. Because of trust in its effectiveness, fundal pressure was often selected as the first option to hasten the second stage of labour to avoid vacuum extraction or caesarean section. Healthcare providers reported that the equipment for vacuum extraction is single-use and costly, and its avoidance reduces out-of-pocket payment for the patient. They also mentioned that emergency caesarean section is often difficult because of the lack of operation room availability. Healthcare providers reported recognizing the negative effects of fundal pressure such as “pain”, “uterine rupture”, and “hematoma or bruise of abdomen”.
Long duration of the 2nd stage: “Long or prolonged 2nd stage” was one of the reasons to apply fundal pressure, and a “long duration” was described from 30 minutes to two hours for primiparae, and 30 minutes to one hour for multiparae.
Factors associated with healthcare providers performing potentially harmful practices
Tables 4 and 5 show the results of bivariate and multivariable analyses on the relationships between maternal, foetal, and environmental factors with episiotomy and fundal pressure, respectively. We arbitrarily selected these explanatory variables in the multiple logistic regression model separately for episiotomy and fundal pressure. The number of explanatory variables were limited to six in episiotomy and five in fundal pressure based on the number of women receiving those practices.
Factors associated with episiotomy were primipara (adjusted odds ratio [95% confidence interval]: aOR 62.3 [16.3-237.1]), more than 30 minutes duration of the second stage (aOR 4.6 [1.2-17.7]), and assisted vaginal delivery by vacuum extraction or forceps (aOR 15.0 [1.2-192.0]). Having maternal complications was negatively associated with performing episiotomy (aOR 0.10 [0.02-0.45).
Factors associated with implementation of fundal pressure were primipara (aOR 3.0 [1.4-6.7]), labour augmentation by oxytocin (aOR 3.3 [1.5-7.0]), and assisted vaginal delivery (aOR 4.8 [1.3-18.0]).
We omitted ‘Birth Attendant’ from the multiple regression analyses, because of collinearity between the birth attendant and mode of delivery. Instrumental delivery, such as vacuum extraction, is usually positively associated with practices of episiotomy and fundal pressure. Therefore, mode of delivery was included a priori in our analysis. However, vacuum extraction and forceps delivery can be performed only by medical doctors in the study site. If we included birth attendant, which was categorized as ‘medical doctor’ or ‘midwife or nurse’, in the model, it automatically produced ‘zero cell’, weakening the validity of the analyses.
Associated factors for OASIS
Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed on the relationships between maternal, foetal, and care-related factors and OASIS (Table 6). Although parity, duration of the second stage, and labour augmentation by oxytocin have significant relationships with the occurrence of OASIS in the univariate analysis, these factors were omitted in the multivariate model because of their collinearity with the Valsalva manoeuvre (method of pushing), episiotomy, and fundal pressure. Assisted vaginal delivery (aOR 6.0 [1.6-22.4]), baby weight of more than 3.5 kg (aOR 7.8 [1.7-36.6]), episiotomy (aOR 26.4 [2.3-299.0]), and fundal pressure (aOR 6.2 [2.1-18.2]) were positively associated with OASIS.