Last year, an estimated 303,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes, 2.7 million babies died during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies were stillborn. Quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth can prevent many of these deaths, yet globally only 64% of women receive antenatal (prenatal) care four or more times throughout their pregnancy, WHO said.
WHO said that antenatal care was a critical opportunity for health providers to deliver care, support and information to pregnant women. This included promoting a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition; detecting and preventing diseases and providing family planning counselling; and supporting women who may be experiencing intimate partner violence.
“If women are to use antenatal care services and come back when it is time to have their baby, they must receive good quality care throughout their pregnancy," WHO director Dr Ian Askew said.
“Pregnancy should be a positive experience for all women and they should receive care that respects their dignity,” Askew said.
The new guidelines contain 49 recommendations that outline what care pregnant women should receive at each of the contacts with the health system, including counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and substance use; malaria and HIV prevention; blood tests and tetanus vaccination; foetal measurements including use of ultrasound; and advice for dealing with common physiological symptoms such as nausea, back pain and constipation.
WHO said that strengthening health systems, including through improved access to qualified health providers, would be key if countries are to implement the guidelines
In September, the UN Commission on Health Employment and Economic Growth recently called for accelerated investment in the health workforce. In response to the commission’s request, the vice-chairs of the Commission from WHO, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will convene all relevant stakeholders by the end of 2016 to develop a five-year implementation plan for the 10 recommendations.
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