Maternal and Newborn Health Research Roundup – May 2024

By: AlignMNH Secretariat

May 23, 2024


Read our May 2024 summary of five recent publications crucial to maternal and newborn health. This month’s publications include the latest published research and our reviews on: midwifery regulations and primary health care in Lao PDR, a multi-sectoral approach to food security and climate resilience to improve MNH, standardizing evaluation of respectful maternity care, the psychological well-being of pregnant and breastfeeding individuals participating in HIV prevention trials, and expansion of universal health coverage and its relationship to infant mortality reduction in low- and middle-income countries.


In a study published in The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific, researchers have conducted a regulatory gap analysis of midwifery in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, revealing that midwives were initially able to provide only 20.5% of essential reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health interventions without physician oversight. Following a multi-stakeholder revision of midwifery practice regulations, this figure dramatically increased to 94.9%, enabling midwives to deliver a far broader range of healthcare services.

This methodological approach has proven effective in identifying and addressing regulatory gaps, thereby significantly enhancing the delivery of primary healthcare interventions by midwives. (5 December, 2023)


Researchers have revealed the critical role of food security policies and programs in bolstering maternal and neonatal survival in Niger amid climate shocks. The study, which spans two decades, highlights the significant strides made in maternal and neonatal nutrition indicators, particularly in vulnerable regions targeted by these initiatives. Despite challenges such as limited financial resources and suboptimal policy implementation, Niger’s multisectoral approach to combating food insecurity and building resilience against climate crises has shown promising results.

The research underscores the importance of continued focus on high-risk populations and investment in infrastructure to further improve health, food, agriculture, education systems, and social protection. (4 October, 2023)


In a study from Rwanda’s Eastern province, researchers have unveiled critical insights into the state of respectful maternity care (RMC) at health facilities. The study, a cross-sectional survey, reveals a significant discrepancy between directly observed RMC and women’s reports of their childbirth experiences. Despite the high self-reported satisfaction with RMC, the observational data reveals low scores in key areas such as information, consent, and privacy.

The findings highlight the urgent need for standardized evaluation methods and improved RMC practices to ensure that every woman’s right to dignified and respectful care during childbirth is upheld. (June 2024)


In a new study, researchers have delved into the psychological well-being of pregnant and breastfeeding individuals participating in two randomized trials for HIV prevention in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. The study, which focused on the use of the dapivirine vaginal ring and oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), found that despite the prevalence of depressive symptoms among participants, there was no evidence suggesting a decrease in adherence to the HIV prevention methods.

Interestingly, the study revealed that the participants’ personal circumstances, including economic hardships and lack of social support, did not deter their commitment to the trials. Instead, these challenges seemed to reinforce their motivation to protect themselves and their infants from HIV, highlighting a strong sense of responsibility towards their own health and that of their babies. (25 March, 2024)


A comprehensive study spanning two decades analyzes 4 million births across 60 LMICs to explore the complex relationship between the expansion of universal health coverage (UHC) and socioeconomic inequalities in infant mortality across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) from 2000 to 2019. Analyzing data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHSs), researchers found that while UHC expansion was associated with a 1.2% reduction in infant mortality overall, the benefits were more pronounced for wealthier segments compared to poorer ones. Initially, UHC expansion yielded larger reductions in infant mortality for poorer households, but this effect diminished as overall coverage increased.

The study underscores the importance of explicitly targeting and prioritizing low-income populations within UHC policies to ensure equitable benefits as coverage expands, as the benefits of UHC seem to diminish for poorer populations as coverage widens. (May 2024)