Guy’s and St Thomas’ medics improve pregnancy care in Sierra Leone

Friday 17 June 2022

Andrew Shennan and team in Sierra Leone

Andrew Shennan and team in Sierra Leone

Doctors and midwives from Guy’s and St Thomas’ are helping to improve healthcare for pregnant women and new-born babies in Sierra Leone.

A team of seven obstetricians, midwives and researchers from Guy’s and St Thomas’, travelled to Sierra Leone to set up lifesaving projects to improve maternal and neonatal healthcare.

Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth. One in every 17 women will die during pregnancy or childbirth.

The country lacks adequate medical equipment and healthcare staff so many women experience delays in receiving lifesaving care.

The team are working with clinicians, community leaders and policy makers in Sierra Leone to understand and reduce the barriers pregnant women face when accessing healthcare.

The project is a National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Global Health Research Group initiative. It is run in partnership with King’s College London and the University of Sierra Leone, with support from the country’s National Midwifery School and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

The project includes:

  • a mentoring scheme for teenage mothers from pregnancy through to one-year post-birth
  • research to determine the best way to predict complications from haemorrhage and sepsis in pregnant women living in rural areas
  • research to show the benefits of a medical device used in the NHS to detect kidney injury in pregnant women
  • a scheme to roll out the CRADLE Vital Signs Alert device, developed at Guy’s and St Thomas’, which detects high blood pressure and shock in pregnant women

The team will also help build research capacity on maternal health in Sierra Leone by supporting three local PhD students and more than 20 early career researchers.

Professor Andrew Shennan, consultant obstetrician at Guy’s and St Thomas’, who is leading the project, said: “I’m very proud and thankful to our staff. They are extremely passionate and committed to helping improve care for pregnant women and babies in Sierra Leone.

“Becoming pregnant in Sierra Leone can be life-threatening. Many communities live in rural areas where there is a shortage of basic medical supplies, pregnancy monitoring equipment and healthcare workers. This means that women with anything but the most straightforward pregnancies could be in danger. Pregnant teenagers also face discrimination and often don’t seek medical care due to fear.

“It’s very important to us that we work with women and communities in Sierra Leone and that they’re involved in decisions about their care. Every woman and child no matter where they live deserves to have access to life-saving healthcare.”

The team were in Sierra Leone for two weeks from 26 March to 8 April. They travelled to Freetown, the capital and largest city, and visited health centres, community groups and local hospitals.

They are going back to Sierra Leone in the summer and have been three times since September last year.

The project is funded by the NIHR and will run until 2024.

Last updated: June 2022

Contact us

Media enquiries
Phone: 020 7188 5577
Email: [email protected]