Patient safety

The WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist

In 2013, 289 000 women died during and following the pregnancy and childbirth, and 2.8 million newborns died within 28 days of birth. The majority of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings and most could have been prevented.

In response to this unacceptable situation, WHO developed the Pilot Edition of the WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist to support the delivery of essential maternal and perinatal care practices. The Checklist contains 29 items addressing the major causes of maternal death (namely, haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour and hypertensive disorders), intrapartum-related stillbirths (namely, inadequate intrapartum care), and neonatal deaths (namely birth asphyxia, infection and complications related to prematurity) in low-income countries. It was developed following a rigorous methodology and tested for usability in ten countries across Africa and Asia.

WHO is providing strategic oversight to a multi-centred randomized controlled trial in over 100 hospitals to test whether adoption of the Checklist improves health outcomes for mothers and neonates. The trial is being conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist Collaboration

In order to gain a better understanding of how to implement the Checklist in different settings, WHO established the Safe Childbirth Checklist Collaboration. The Collaboration invited members to use the Checklist while exploring implementation factors.

The Safe Childbirth Checklist programme represents a joint effort of WHO, acting through Department of Service Delivery and Safety, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, and Department of Reproductive Health and Research, as well as the Harvard School of Public Health, in addition to many other experts from around the world.