Symphysis-fundal height, gestational age and its value for identification of foetuses at risk in rural Tanzania: A qualitative follow-up study

Andrea Solnes Miltenburg, Sandra van Pelt, Richard Forget Kiritta, Tarek Meguid, Johanne Sundby


Preterm birth and abnormal foetal growth increase the risk of perinatal morbidity and mortality. Timely identification of foetuses at risk is critical to improving maternal and neonatal outcomes. The objective of this study was to increase understanding of the quality of foetal growth monitoring during antenatal care in Tanzania. Between 2015 and 2017, 13 women were followed throughout their pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period. Participants were recruited using a staggered approach at selected health facilities. Data collection included direct observations of 25 of 48 antenatal care consultations, review of the women’s antenatal cards, 88 in-depth interviews and participant observation at the health facilities. Six women had facility births and seven had home births. There was one stillbirth, one preterm birth and two term infants died between the age of 3-6 months. Of the 9 newborns with a known birthweight, 3 were possibly growth-restricted. During 12 ANC visits (25%) Symphysis-Fundal Height (SFH) was not recorded and during 22 visits (46%) the recorded Gestational Age (GA) was incorrect. Despite regular assessment of SFH, three possible growth-restricted infants remained undetected. There is a need to improve nurse-midwives ability to determine a reliable GA and improve critical reflection on SFH measurement. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[5]: 140-149).

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