Birth-related perineal trauma in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis

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  • Department of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Worcester


Introduction Birth-related perineal trauma (BPT) is a common consequence of vaginal births. When poorly managed, BPT can result in increased morbidity and mortality due to infections, haemorrhage, and incontinence. This review aims to collect data on rates of BPT in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), through a systematic review and meta-analysis. Methods The following databases were searched: Medline, Embase, Latin American and Caribbean Health Sciences Literature (LILACs), and the World Health Organization (WHO) regional databases, from 2004 to 2016. Cross-sectional data on the proportion of vaginal births that resulted in episiotomy, second degree tears or obstetric anal sphincter injuries (OASI) were extracted from studies carried out in LMICs by two independent reviewers. Estimates were meta-analysed using a random effects model; results were presented by type of BPT, parity, and mode of birth. Results Of the 1182 citations reviewed, 74 studies providing data on 334,054 births in 41 countries were included. Five studies reported outcomes of births in the community. In LMICs, the overall rates of BPT were 46% (95% CI 36–55%), 24% (95% CI 17–32%), and 1.4% (95% CI 1.2–1.7%) for episiotomies, second degree tears, and OASI, respectively. Studies were highly heterogeneous with respect to study design and population. The overall reporting quality was inadequate. Discussion Compared to high-income settings, episiotomy rates are high in LMIC medical facilities. There is an urgent need to improve reporting of BPT in LMICs particularly with regards to births taking in community settings.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1048-1070
Number of pages23
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number8
Early online date26 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • Episiotomy, OASI, birth-related perineal trauma, systematic review, LMICs