Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Skilled birth attendants

Nurse touching the belly of a pregnant woman
WHO / Christopher Black

In 2010 approximately 287 000 women died while pregnant or giving birth and 3.1 million newborns die in the neonatal period. The highest incidence of maternal and perinatal mortality occurs around the time of birth with the majority of deaths occurring within the first 24 hours after birth.

This is why WHO advocates for "skilled care at every birth". Ensuring quality maternity care services can save the lives of women and newborns. These services require “an accredited health professional – such as a midwife, doctor or nurse – who has been educated and trained to proficiency in the skills needed to manage normal (uncomplicated) pregnancies, childbirth and the immediate postnatal period, and in the identification, management and referral of complications in women and newborns”. (1) In addition to the appropriate skills, these health professionals should be motivated and located in the right place at the right time, They need to be supported by appropriate policies, essential supplies including medicines and operating under appropriate regulatory frameworks.

Challenges still remain which relate to the shortage of health workforce, education and practice. WHO has developed tools and frameworks to support interventions in response to these challenges. A broad range of relevant documents can be found on the web page link below.