Care for women during pregnancy, labor, birth and the postpartum period is essential to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity, however the ideal place and organization of care provision has not been established. The World Health Organization recommends a two-tier maternity care system involving first-level care in community facilities, with backup obstetric hospital care. However, evidence from high-income countries is increasingly showing benefits for low-risk women birthing outside of hospital settings with skilled birth assistance and access to backup care, including lower rates of intervention. Indonesia is a lower middle-income country with a network of village-based midwives who attend births at homes, clinics and hospitals, and has had reduced mortality rates in recent decades while maintaining largely low rates of intervention. However, the country has not met its neonatal or maternal mortality reduction goals, and it is unclear whether greater improvements could be made if all women birthed in hospitals.
This paper reviewed the literature on birth outcomes by place of birth and/or caregiver for women considering their risk of complications in Indonesia. A systematic literature search of Pubmed, CINAHL, CENTRAL, Web of Science, Popline, WHOLIS and clinical trials registered in 2016 and updated in 2018 resulted in screening 2,211 studies after removing duplicates. Twenty four studies were found to present outcomes by place of birth or caregiver and were included. The studies were varied in their findings with respect of the outcomes for women birthing at home and in hospital settings, with and without skilled care. The quality of most studies was rated as poor or moderate using the Effective Public Health Practice Project Quality Assessment Tool. Only one study gave an overall assessment of the risk status of the women included, making it impossible to draw conclusions about outcomes for low-risk women specifically; other studies adjusted for various individual risk factors.
From the studies in this review, it is impossible to assess the outcomes for low-risk women birthing with health professionals within and outside of Indonesian hospitals. This finding is supported by reviews from other countries with developing maternity systems. Better evidence and information is needed before it can be determined if attended birth outside of hospitals is a safe option for low-risk women outside of high income countries.