By Ammaar ArshadJuly 15, 2012Maternal and Child Health Making birthing safe for Pakistan women: a cluster randomized trial, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth July 15 2012; 12:67 doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-67 Authors: Muhammad Amir Khan, Shirin Mirza, Maqsood Ahmed, Akhtar Rasheed, Amanullah Khan, John Walley, Nailah Nisar. Two out of three neonatal deaths occur in just 10 countries and Pakistan stands third among them. Maternal mortality is also high with most deaths occurring during labor, birth, and first few hours after birth. Enhanced access and utilization of skilled delivery and emergency obstetric care is the demonstrated strategy in reducing maternal and neonatal mortality. This trial aims to compare reduction in neonate mortality and utilization of available safe birthing and Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care services among pregnant mothers receiving ‘structured birth planning’, and/or ‘transport facilitation’ compared to routine care. A pragmatic cluster randomized trial, with qualitative and economic studies, will be conducted in Jhang, Chiniot and Khanewal districts of Punjab, Pakistan, from February 2011 to May 2013. At least 29,295 pregnancies will be registered in the three arms, seven clusters per arm; 1) structured birth planning and travel facilitation, 2) structured birth planning, and 3) control arm. Trial will be conducted through the Lady Health Worker program. Main outcomes are difference in neonatal mortality and service utilization; maternal mortality being the secondary outcome. Cluster level analysis will be done according to intention-to-treat. A nationwide network of about 100,000 lady health workers is already involved in antenatal and postnatal care of pregnant women. They also act as “gatekeepers” for the child birthing services. This gate keeping role mainly includes counseling and referral for skill birth attendance and travel arrangements for emergency obstetric care (if required). The review of current arrangements and practices show that the care delivery process needs enhancement to include adequate information provision as well as informed “decision” making and planned “action” by the pregnant women. The proposed three-year research is to develop, through national technical working group process, and then test a set of arrangements for achieving the enhanced utilization of safe birthing services.