The Effect of Increasing the Supply of Skilled Health Providers on Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes

Evidence from the Midwives Service Scheme in Nigeria

Published in: BMC Health Services Research (2016) 16:425, doi 10.1186/s12913-016-1688-8

Posted on on March 15, 2017

by Edward N. Okeke, Peter Glick, Amalavoyal V. Chari, Isa Sadeeq Abubakar, Emma Pitchforth, Josephine Exley, Usman Bashir, Kun Gu, Obinna Onwujekwe


Limited availability of skilled health providers in developing countries is thought to be an important barrier to achieving maternal and child health-related MDG goals. Little is known, however, about the extent to which scaling-up supply of health providers will lead to improved pregnancy and birth outcomes. We study the effects of the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS), a public sector program in Nigeria that increased the supply of skilled midwives in rural communities on pregnancy and birth outcomes.


We surveyed 7,104 women with a birth within the preceding five years across 12 states in Nigeria and compared changes in birth outcomes in MSS communities to changes in non-MSS communities over the same period.


The main measured effect of the scheme was a 7.3-percentage point increase in antenatal care use in program clinics and a 5-percentage point increase in overall use of antenatal care, both within the first year of the program. We found no statistically significant effect of the scheme on skilled birth attendance or on maternal delivery complications.


This study highlights the complexity of improving maternal and child health outcomes in developing countries, and shows that scaling up supply of midwives may not be sufficient on its own.

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