Incidence of eclampsia and related complications across 10 low- and middle-resource geographical regions: Secondary analysis of a cluster randomised controlled trial

CRADLE Trial Collaborative Group, Nicola Vousden, Elodie Lawley, Paul T Seed, Muchabayiwa Francis Gidiri, Shivaprasad Goudar, Jane Sandall, Lucy C Chappell, Andrew H Shennan

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BACKGROUND: In 2015, approximately 42,000 women died as a result of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy worldwide; over 99% of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The aim of this paper is to describe the incidence and characteristics of eclampsia and related complications from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy across 10 low- and middle-income geographical regions in 8 countries, in relation to magnesium sulfate availability.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: This is a secondary analysis of a stepped-wedge cluster randomised controlled trial undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Haiti. This trial implemented a novel vital sign device and training package in routine maternity care with the aim of reducing a composite outcome of maternal mortality and morbidity. Institutional-level consent was obtained, and all women presenting for maternity care were eligible for inclusion. Data on eclampsia, stroke, admission to intensive care with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, and maternal death from a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy were prospectively collected from routine data sources and active case finding, together with data on perinatal outcomes in women with these outcomes. In 536,233 deliveries between 1 April 2016 and 30 November 2017, there were 2,692 women with eclampsia (0.5%). In total 6.9% (n = 186; 3.47/10,000 deliveries) of women with eclampsia died, and a further 51 died from other complications of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (0.95/10,000). After planned adjustments, the implementation of the CRADLE intervention was not associated with any significant change in the rates of eclampsia, stroke, or maternal death or intensive care admission with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. Nearly 1 in 5 (17.9%) women with eclampsia, stroke, or a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy causing intensive care admission or maternal death experienced a stillbirth or neonatal death. A third of eclampsia cases (33.2%; n = 894) occurred in women under 20 years of age, 60.0% in women aged 20-34 years (n = 1,616), and 6.8% (n = 182) in women aged 35 years or over. Rates of eclampsia varied approximately 7-fold between sites (range 19.6/10,000 in Zambia Centre 1 to 142.0/10,000 in Sierra Leone). Over half (55.1%) of first eclamptic fits occurred in a health-care facility, with the remainder in the community. Place of first fit varied substantially between sites (from 5.9% in the central referral facility in Sierra Leone to 85% in Uganda Centre 2). On average, magnesium sulfate was available in 74.7% of facilities (range 25% in Haiti to 100% in Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe). There was no detectable association between magnesium sulfate availability and the rate of eclampsia across sites (p = 0.12). This analysis may have been influenced by the selection of predominantly urban and peri-urban settings, and by collection of only monthly data on availability of magnesium sulfate, and is limited by the lack of demographic data in the population of women delivering in the trial areas.

CONCLUSIONS: The large variation in eclampsia and maternal and neonatal fatality from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy between countries emphasises that inequality and inequity persist in healthcare for women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Alongside the growing interest in improving community detection and health education for these disorders, efforts to improve quality of care within healthcare facilities are key. Strategies to prevent eclampsia should be informed by local data.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1002775
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number3
Early online date29 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2019


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