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Keywords:

  • Africa;
  • maternal health services;
  • obstetric labor complications;
  • pregnancy;
  • rural health

Introduction: We evaluated a community-based intervention to promote safe motherhood, focusing on knowledge and behaviors that may reduce maternal mortality and birth complications. The intervention aimed to increase women's birth preparedness, knowledge of birth danger signs, use of antenatal care services, and birth at a health care facility.

Methods: Volunteers from a remote rural community in Northern Eritrea were trained to lead participatory educational sessions on safe motherhood with women and men. The evaluation used a quasiexperimental design (nonequivalent group pretest-posttest) including cross-sectional surveys with postpartum women (pretest n = 466, posttest n = 378) in the intervention area and in a similar remote rural comparison area.

Results: Women's knowledge of birth danger signs increased significantly in the intervention area but not in the comparison area. There was a significant increase in the proportion of women who had the recommended 4 or more antenatal care visits during pregnancy in the intervention area (from 18% to 80%, P < .001), although this proportion did not change significantly in the comparison area (from 53% to 47%, P= .194). There was a greater increase in birth in a health care facility in the intervention area.

Discussion: Participatory sessions led by community volunteers can increase safe motherhood knowledge and encourage use of essential maternity services.