Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health
Why it is important
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Every pregnant woman hopes for a healthy baby and an uncomplicated pregnancy. However, every day, about 1,500 women and adolescent girls die from problems related to pregnancy and childbirth. Every year, some 10 million women and adolescent girls experience complications during pregnancy, many of which leave them and/or their children with infections and severe disabilities.
Each year, about 3 million babies are stillborn, and 3.7 million babies (latest data available, 2004) die very soon after birth or within the first month. The poor health of the mother, including diseases that were not adequately treated before or during pregnancy, is often a factor contributing to newborn deaths or to babies born too early and/or with low birth weight, which can cause future complications.
The risks of childbearing for the mother and her baby can be greatly reduced if: 1) a woman is healthy and well nourished before becoming pregnant; 2) she has regular maternity care by a trained health worker at least four times during every pregnancy; 3) the birth is assisted by a skilled birth attendant, such as a doctor, nurse or midwife; 4) she and her baby have access to specialized care if there are complications; and 5) she and her baby are checked regularly during the 24 hours after childbirth, in the first week, and again six weeks after giving birth.
Pregnant women and their partners who are HIV-positive or think they may be infected should consult a trained health worker for counselling on reducing the risk of infecting the baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, and caring for themselves and their baby.
Governments have a responsibility to ensure that every woman has access to quality maternity care, including prenatal and post-natal services; a skilled birth attendant to assist at childbirth; special care and referral services in the event serious problems arise; and maternity protection in the workplace.
Most governments have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Some countries have ratified the international agreements on maternity protection, and most have enacted legislation on maternity protection. These international agreements in defence of women's rights include a legally binding commitment to provide pregnant women and mothers with health services and protection in the workplace.
Many women, including adolescents, have difficulty accessing quality health care due to poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services or cultural practices. Governments and local authorities, with support from non-governmental and community-based organizations, have a responsibility to address these issues to ensure that women receive the quality health care they need and that they and their newborns have a right to receive.
All pregnant women should visit a trained health worker for prenatal and post-natal care, and all births should be assisted by a skilled birth attendant.
All pregnant women and their families need to know the warning signs of problems during and after pregnancy and the options for seeking assistance.
They also need to have plans and resources for obtaining skilled care for the birth and immediate help if problems arise.
1. Girls who are educated and healthy and who have a nutritious diet throughout their childhood and teenage years are more likely to have healthy babies and go through pregnancy and childbirth safely if childbearing begins after they are 18 years old.Supporting Information
2. The risks associated with childbearing for the mother and her baby can be greatly reduced if a woman is healthy and well nourished before becoming pregnant. During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, all women need more nutritious meals, increased quantities of food, more rest than usual, iron-folic acid or multiple micronutrient supplements, even if they are consuming fortified foods, and iodized salt to ensure the proper mental development of their babies.Supporting Information
3. Every pregnancy is special. All pregnant women need at least four prenatal care visits to help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women and their families need to be able to recognize the signs of labour and the warning signs of pregnancy complications. They need to have plans and resources for obtaining skilled care for the birth and immediate help if problems arise.Supporting Information
4. Childbirth is the most critical period for the mother and her baby. Every pregnant woman must have a skilled birth attendant, such as a midwife, doctor or nurse, assisting her during childbirth, and she must also have timely access to specialized care if complications should occur.Supporting Information
5. Post-natal care for the mother and child reduces the risk of complications and supports mothers and fathers or other caregivers to help their new baby get a healthy start in life. The mother and child should be checked regularly during the first 24 hours after childbirth, in the first week, and again six weeks after birth. If there are complications, more frequent checkups are necessary.Supporting Information
6. A healthy mother, a safe birth, essential newborn care and attention, a loving family and a clean home environment contribute greatly to newborn health and survival.Supporting Information
7. Smoking, alcohol, drugs, poisons and pollutants are particularly harmful to pregnant women, the developing fetus, babies and young children.Supporting Information
8. Violence against women is a serious public health problem in most communities. When a woman is pregnant, violence is very dangerous to both the woman and her pregnancy. It increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and having a low-birthweight baby.Supporting Information
9. In the workplace, pregnant women and mothers should be protected from discrimination and exposure to health risks and granted time to breastfeed or express breastmilk. They should be entitled to maternity leave, employment protection, medical benefits and, where applicable, cash support.Supporting Information
10. Every woman has the right to quality health care, especially a pregnant woman or a new mother. Health workers should be technically competent and sensitive to cultural practices and should treat all women, including adolescent girls, with respect.Supporting Information