Guatemala: Detection of high-risk pregnancies in low-resource settings

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Maternal and neonatal mortality is still very high at a global level, even though its reduction is a goal established among the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. In order to improve prenatal care to address this challenge, this article proposes a strategy to detect and refer high risk pregnancies in rural setting through a portable ultrasound system combined with blood and urine strip tests.


The Healthy Pregnancy project was conceived as a single, explanatory and positivist case study, with a sample of ten thousand pregnant women attended by itinerant nurses of the Departments of Alta Verapaz and San Marcos in Guatemala. These nurses were trained and equipped with 31 portable ultrasound, and blood and urine tests to detect common obstetric pathology. Moreover, two obstetricians were responsible for remotely supervising the quality of prenatal care. Target communities were selected by the Health Directorates of the public health system from those that had the highest maternal mortality in previous years.


The project attended to 10,108 women in 2 years and 3 months. 55 twin gestations (0.54%) were diagnosed. Non-cephalic presentation was found in 14.87% of the pregnant women attended from week 32 onwards. 20 patients were referred for non-evolutive gestation. An 11.08% prevalence of anemia was detected. Urine infections were diagnosed in 16.43% of the cases. Proteinuria was detected in 2.6% of patients, but only 17 of them presented high blood pressure and were therefore referred with a suspected pre-eclampsia.


The results obtained indicate that an intervention of these characteristics makes it possible to improve the quality of care of rural pregnant women in low and middle-income countries.


The results show that with suitable equipment, training, and supervision, the nursing staff in charge of care in rural areas can identify and refer most of the obstetric risks in time, which may contribute to the reduction of maternal mortality.

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