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‘303,000 women, 2.7m babies died from pregnancy-related causes in 2015’


World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan, AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

About 303,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes, 2.7 million newborns lost their lives during the first 28 days and 2.6 million babies were stillborn in 2015.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in new recommendations on maternal and child health issued yesterday said quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth can prevent many of these deaths, yet globally only 64 per cent of women receive antenatal (prenatal) care four or more times throughout pregnancy.

The new guidelines contain 49 recommendations that outline the type of care pregnant women should receive at each contact with the health system.

This includes counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and substance use; malaria and Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) prevention; blood tests and tetanus vaccination; fetal measurements including use of ultrasound and advice for dealing with common physiological symptoms such as nausea, back pain and constipation.

According to the WHO, antenatal care is a critical opportunity for health providers to deliver care, support and information to pregnant women. This includes promoting a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition; detecting and preventing diseases; providing family planning counselling and supporting women who may be experiencing intimate partner violence.

Director of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO, Dr. Ian Askew, said: “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’s new antenatal care model increases the number of contacts a pregnant woman has with health providers throughout her pregnancy from four to eight. Recent evidence indicates that a higher frequency of antenatal contacts by women and adolescent girls with the health system is associated with a reduced likelihood of stillbirths. This is because of the increased opportunities to detect and manage potential problems. A minimum of eight contacts for antenatal care can reduce perinatal deaths by up to eight per 1,000 births when compared to a minimum of four visits.

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