Ebola and Pregnant Women: Providing Maternity Care at MSF Treatment Centers

  • Severine Caluwaerts
  • Patricia KahnEmail author
Part of the Global Maternal and Child Health book series (GMCH)


Caring for Ebola-positive patients is complex, but caring for Ebola-positive pregnant patients during the 2014–2016 West-Africa epidemic was an even more complicated challenge for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other frontline responders. Very little data had been published on Ebola and pregnancy, and the few reports available at the start of the outbreak suggested mortality of 90–95% for mothers and 100% for fetuses/neonates. Initially, medical teams were severely hampered by the lack of knowledge and clinical guidance on managing pregnant patients, which was seen essentially as providing palliative care for mother and fetus. In early August 2014 (6 months into the outbreak), MSF published the first such guidelines, adapted to the realities of the West Africa setting, followed by four updates during the remainder of the epidemic. With more experience and clear guidelines for improved care, MSF saw that mothers had a reasonable chance of survival—36 out of 77 documented pregnant patients (47%) survived this epidemic. Additionally, the first documented survivor of transplacental Ebola was reported in Guinea in October 2015. Many questions still remain, but the new knowledge, data, and field-tested guidelines that emerged from this outbreak can help inform care of pregnant women in future outbreaks. MSF data have been shared with the worldwide scientific community, via medical journals and online publication.


MSF pregnancy Ebola Doctors without borders Ebola-infected neonates Experimental Ebola treatments Guinea Liberia Sierra Leone Maternal mortality Guidelines for Ebola care Ebola Treatment Center 



This article is dedicated to the 14 MSF staff who lost their lives in this Ebola epidemic.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Médecins Sans Frontières, Operations CenterBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Médecins Sans FrontièresNew YorkUSA

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