May 23

Over-Intervention in Maternity Care is a Global Concern

The Wilson Center, the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue to inform actionable ideas for the policy community, recently convened a panel of experts to discuss Too Much Too Soon: Addressing Over-Intervention in Maternity Care. The panel included Saraswathi Vedam, an associate professor and lead investigator at the University of British Columbia’s Birth Place Lab; Suellen Miller, Director, Safe Motherhood Program; and Myriam Vuckovic, Assistant Professor, International Health Department, Georgetown University.


From the Wilson Center website:

For years, the primary approach to improving global maternal health was additive – to increase capacity to address shortfalls in clinics, doctors, supplies, information, and skilled care. Today, however, some women are experiencing issues related to the opposite problem: too much.

So called “over-intervention,” such as the use of Caesarean sections, ultrasounds, and antibiotics when not needed, are costly for health systems and can be dangerous for women and newborns. In addition, it calls attention to whether women are being allowed to make decisions about their own health care under pressure.

“An indicator for poverty and for equity today is quality – the lack of quality,” said Anneka Knutsson, chief of sexual and reproductive health for United Nations Population Fund, at the Wilson Center on April 24. “It comes in the form of underuse, it comes in the form of overuse, but increasingly, the lack of quality is about over-intervention, of losing sight of what is ‘normal’ childbirth and supporting that physiological process.”

In parts of the world, “We have these huge numbers of women going into hospitals with three to a bed and overcrowded hospitals and terrible conditions, and we have not improved the outcomes,” says Dr. Vedam, who is also chair of the Home Birth Summit.  “Institutional birth has not been shown to be the answer,” she says. Instead, “it’s about skilled attendants and respectful care.”

You can access a recording of the entire two hour streamed event here.

A twenty minute podcast of Dr. Vedam’s presentation “Reducing Over-Intervention in Maternal Care Through More Autonomy” is available here.


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