A new major international study has said that the health of pregnant women and their babies in South-East Asia needs to be monitored effectively so as to prevent child and mother mortality.
The study, conducted by researchers at University of Adelaide, Australia, shows that while some best care practices have been implemented in hospitals in South-East Asia, a number of worrying practices remain and more needs to be done to improve mothers' and babies' health.
For women in Asia, the lifetime risk of dying during or shortly after a pregnancy is one in 65 compared with one in 1800 for women in developed countries.
For newborns, mortality rates are almost 10 times greater in South-East Asia than in developed countries.
For the study, researchers in Australia and South-East Asia conducted an audit of medical records of 9550 women and their infants who were admitted to the labor wards of nine hospitals across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand throughout 2005.
"The audit found that many professional health care workers in South-East Asia had implemented best practice for pregnant women and their babies prior to and immediately after birth, but there were also many cases that diverged from recommended practice," says one of the Chief Investigators of the study, Professor Caroline Crowther from the University of Adelaide's Discipline of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"These practices included: not administering appropriate antibiotics to protect against infection during cesarean section; too liberal use of episiotomy (surgical incision through the perineum) for women having a vaginal birth and the use of enemas during labor, both of which were often inappropriately practiced," they added.
The audit has been conducted as part of a major international research effort called SEA-ORCHID (South East Asia Optimizing Reproductive and Child Health In Developing countries Project).
Professor Crowther says the SEA-ORCHID Group hopes to improve health outcomes for mothers and their babies in the region by building research capacity and applying research evidence into clinical practice.
The study is published in the international online journal PLoS ONE.