Patient safety

Photograph reproduced with kind permission of UNICEF: © UNICEF/NYHQ2005-2410/Anita Khemka

Safe Childbirth Checklist

In 2010, 287 000 women died during pregnancy and childbirth, some 2.6 million stillbirths occurred worldwide, and nearly 3 million newborns died within their first month of life. The majority of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings and most could have been prevented.

In response to this unacceptable situation, WHO has developed the Pilot Edition of the Safe Childbirth Checklist, to support the delivery of essential maternal and perinatal care practices. The WHO Safe Childbirth 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. It is estimated that the study will be completed in 2015.

The Safe Childbirth Checklist Collaboration

WHO is pleased to launch the Safe Childbirth Checklist Collaboration to explore the implementation and usability of the checklist in multiple settings. The Collaboration provides a platform for the learning and sharing of experiences, and is part of broader works towards the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.

WHO welcomes health-care groups, academic institutions, and nongovernmental and other organizations interested in improving maternal and newborn health to join the Collaboration. Participants from around the world are invited to conduct implementation research and generate information on the most effective ways of implementing and using the checklist in multiple settings.

Through the Collaboration, members will be connected to an international network of fellow researchers and institutions with whom they can share discussions and findings.


The Safe Childbirth Checklist programme represents a joint effort of WHO, acting through its Patient Safety Programme, and its 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.