Chlorhexidine for facility-based umbilical cord care: EN-BIRTH multi-country validation study

EN-BIRTH Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Umbilical cord hygiene prevents sepsis, a leading cause of neonatal mortality. The World Health Organization recommends 7.1% chlorhexidine digluconate (CHX) application to the umbilicus after home birth in high mortality contexts. In Bangladesh and Nepal, national policies recommend CHX use for all facility births. Population-based household surveys include optional questions on CHX use, but indicator validation studies are lacking. The Every Newborn Birth Indicators Research Tracking in Hospitals (EN-BIRTH) was an observational study assessing measurement validity for maternal and newborn indicators. This paper reports results regarding CHX. Methods: The EN-BIRTH study (July 2017–July 2018) included three public hospitals in Bangladesh and Nepal where CHX cord application is routine. Clinical-observers collected tablet-based, time-stamped data regarding cord care during admission to labour and delivery wards as the gold standard to assess accuracy of women’s report at exit survey, and of routine-register data. We calculated validity ratios and individual-level validation metrics; analysed coverage, quality and measurement gaps. We conducted qualitative interviews to assess barriers and enablers to routine register-recording. Results: Umbilical cord care was observed for 12,379 live births. Observer-assessed CHX coverage was very high at 89.3–99.4% in all 3 hospitals, although slightly lower after caesarean births in Azimpur (86.8%), Bangladesh. Exit survey-reported coverage (0.4–45.9%) underestimated the observed coverage with substantial “don’t know” responses (55.5–79.4%). Survey-reported validity ratios were all poor (0.01 to 0.38). Register-recorded coverage in the specific column in Bangladesh was underestimated by 0.2% in Kushtia but overestimated by 9.0% in Azimpur. Register-recorded validity ratios were good (0.9 to 1.1) in Bangladesh, and poor (0.8) in Nepal. The non-specific register column in Pokhara, Nepal substantially underestimated coverage (20.7%). Conclusions: Exit survey-report highly underestimated observed CHX coverage in all three hospitals. Routine register-recorded coverage was closer to observer-assessed coverage than survey reports in all hospitals, including for caesarean births, and was more accurately captured in hospitals with a specific register column. Inclusion of CHX cord care into registers, and tallied into health management information system platforms, is justified in countries with national policies for facility-based use, but requires implementation research to assess register design and data flow within health information systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number239
JournalBMC pregnancy and childbirth
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • 7.1% chlorhexidine
  • Birth
  • Coverage
  • Health management systems
  • Hospital records
  • Neonatal sepsis
  • Newborn
  • Survey
  • Umbilical cord care
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Chlorhexidine for facility-based umbilical cord care: EN-BIRTH multi-country validation study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this