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 has launched 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 work towards the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.

Since the launch of the Collaboration in November 2012, members from around the world have joined and committed to implementing the Checklist in a research context and sharing their experience for the greater learning of the Collaboration as a whole. As of June 2014, twenty institutions are participating in the Collaboration covering a range of research topics.

The first Progress Report of the Collaboration provides an overview of the research projects and the progress achieved by the Collaboration so far.


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.