Background We sought to determine the impact of the Ebola virus epidemic on the availability, uptake and outcome of routine maternity services in Sierra Leone.
Methods The number of antenatal and postnatal visits, institutional births, availability of emergency obstetric care (EmOC), maternal deaths and stillbirths were assessed by month, by districts and by level of healthcare for 10 months during, and 12 months prior to, the Ebola virus disease (EVD) epidemic. All healthcare facilities designated to provide comprehensive (n=13) or basic (n=67) EmOC across the 13 districts of Sierra Leone were included.
Results Preservice students were not deployed during the EVD epidemic. The number of healthcare providers in facilities remained constant (incidence rate ratio (IRR) 1.03, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.07). Availability of antibiotics, oxytocics, anticonvulsants, manual removal of placenta, removal of retained products of conception, blood transfusion and caesarean section were not affected by the EVD epidemic. Across Sierra Leone, following the onset of the EVD epidemic, there was a 18% decrease in the number of women attending for antenatal (IRR 0.82, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.84); 22% decrease in postnatal attendance (IRR 0.78, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.80) visits and 11% decrease in the number of women attending for birth at a healthcare facility (IRR 0.89, 95% CI 0.87 to 0.91). There was a corresponding 34% increase in the facility maternal mortality ratio (IRR 1.34, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.69) and 24% increase in the stillbirth rate (IRR 1.24, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.35).
Conclusions During the EVD epidemic, fewer pregnant women accessed healthcare. For those who did, an increase in maternal mortality and stillbirth was observed. In the post-Ebola phase, ‘readiness’ (or not) of the global partners for large-scale epidemics has been the focus of debate. The level of functioning of the health system with regard to ability to continue to provide high-quality effective routine care needs more attention.
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