Sexual and reproductive health

A Network to halve maternal and newborn deaths in facilities in 5 years

Elizabeth Wezena with babies in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit of the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital in the Upper East region of Ghana.

February 2017 -- Many women, their babies and children still die, or suffer from life-long disabilities, even after reaching a health facility, due to poor care practices. Improving the quality of care provided is of utmost urgency. With a target of halving maternal and newborn deaths in facilities in 5 years, national governments from 9 first wave countries and partners are joining forces to establish a Network to improve the quality of care provided to mothers, newborns and children. The Network will support countries to achieve their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieve the vision set out by the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

Mistreatment of women during childbirth a sad reality worldwide

A pregnant woman is examined by a midwife at health post, Guinea
A pregnant woman is examined by a midwife in Guinea.

2 February 2017: Women worldwide face diverse forms of mistreatment during childbirth by health-care providers. Recent evidence, which has been generated through the HRP Alliance research capacity strengthening programme, suggests that this unacceptable mistreatment can include physical and verbal abuse, violations of privacy, stigma and discrimination, and neglect and abandonment.

Maternal mortality: looking back and moving forward

10 February 2017 : Thirty years ago today, in 1987, WHO, UNFPA and The World Bank hosted the first international Safe Motherhood Conference. This conference, held in Nairobi, brought together the international community to seek solutions to the high rates of maternal mortality, estimated at that time to be in excess of half a million maternal deaths every year. The conference opened with addresses by WHO’s Director-General at the time, Dr Halfdan Mahler and the UNFPA Executive Director Dr Nafiz Sadek was significant in that it led to the launch of the Safe Motherhood initiative and is widely credited with putting maternal health on the global agenda. The Safe Motherhood initiative was quickly strengthened by others including UNDP, UNICEF, IPPF the Population Council, and Family Care International.

WHO publishes new multinational fetal growth charts

A doctor performs ultrasound at a Hospital, Tigray region, Ethiopia

24 January 2017: A new study, published today by PLOS Medicine, shows that there is significant variation in fetal growth between countries. The study also found that fetal growth was to some extent influenced by maternal age, height, weight, parity and by fetal sex. A significant variation in birth weight was also observed between countries. The article which is open access also provides new WHO charts for estimating fetal growth and should be particularly useful for countries who may not have resources to develop their own charts.

New guidelines on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience

A community health worker checks a pregnant woman's health condition at her home,  Bangladesh
Sumon Yusuf/Photoshare

7 NOVEMBER 2016 | GENEVA – The World Health Organization has issued a new series of recommendations to improve quality of antenatal care to reduce the risk of stillbirths and pregnancy complications and give women a positive pregnancy experience. By focusing on a positive pregnancy experience, these new guidelines seek to ensure not only a health pregnancy for mother and baby, but also an effective transition to positive labour and childbirth and ultimately to a positive experience of motherhood.

Poorest and most marginalized women continue to be most at risk of maternal death

A woman walks behind her husband to a primary health centre, India.

15 September 2016: The poorest and most marginalized women continue to face the highest risk of death from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. The authors of a special series published in The Lancet today, warn that efforts must be drastically increased to safeguard the maternal health of all women everywhere, if the good health and well-being of all people – and in turn the well-being and prosperity of communities and societies – are to be achieved.


Quality of care

Pregnancy-related deaths and diseases remain unacceptably high. In 2015, 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. While substantial progress has been made over the past two decades, increased access to, and use of, higher-quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth can prevent many of these deaths and diseases, as well as improve women and adolescent girls’ experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

Global surveys


  • Full list
    Clinical guidance, policy and programmatic issues, monitoring, journal articles.

Caesarean section


Assisted vaginal delivery device winner in “Saving Lives at Birth” challenge

Mobile technology

Using emerging mHealth best practices — automated reminders and reporting, decision support, multimedia counseling — OpenSRP builds on existing robust mobile technologies to deliver a powerful and dependable application to skilled health workers, empowering them to more effectively deliver and account for the care they provide to their clients.


  • Stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths

    WHO launches new tools to help countries address stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths

    Every day, women die during childbirth and babies are born stillborn. With quality health care throughout pregnancy and childbirth, many of these deaths could be prevented, but countries often lack the knowledge and capacity needed to take actions to stop other women and babies dying in the same way. To address this issue WHO is today launching two new tools to help countries improve their data on stillbirths and neonatal deaths as well as a report on the global status of implementation of maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR), a key strategy for reducing preventable maternal mortality

  • WHO Statement

    Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth

    WHO and its partners around the world issued a statement on the prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during facility-based delivery. Every woman has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, including the right to dignified, respectful care during pregnancy and childbirth. However, across the world many women experience disrespectful, abusive, or neglectful treatment during childbirth in facilities. These practices can violate women’s rights, deter women from seeking and using maternal health care services and can have implications for their health and well-being.

  • Strategies toward ending preventable maternal mortality (EPMM)

    27 February 2015 – Maternal health, wellbeing and survival must remain a central goal and an investment priority in the post-2015 framework for sustainable development to ensure that progress continues and accelerates, with a focus on reducing inequities and discrimination. Attention to maternal mortality and morbidity must be accompanied by improvements along the continuum of care for women and children, including commitments to sexual and reproductive health and newborn and child survival.

  • Statement

    Tetanus Toxoid vaccine

    WHO is concerned that misinformation circulating in the media about the Tetanus Toxoid vaccine could have a seriously negative impact on the health of women and children. The Organization confirms that the Tetanus Toxoid (TT) vaccine is safe. The vaccine has been used in 52 countries, to immunize 130 million women to protect them and their newborn babies from tetanus. There is no HCG hormone in tetanus toxoid vaccines.

  • WHO Study

    Half of preterm babies born in hospitals miss out on life-saving drug

    A new World Health Organization study reveals that only half of women who gave birth preterm in hospitals have received steroid injections which prevent death and disability among vulnerable, preterm newborns. The study is the largest to look at the use of these life-saving drugs internationally. These drugs have existed for decades, don’t require refrigeration, and cost less than US$ 1 an injection.

  • Preventing postpartum haemorrhage

    WHO to trial a new drug to stop women dying in childbirth

    WHO, Merck and Ferring Pharmaceuticals announce a partnership to evaluate a new, proprietary, room-temperature stable formulation of carbetocin—a drug for preventing postpartum haemorrhage after childbirth.This trial is a new step for WHO. If the trial is successful, it could mean the difference between life and death for thousands of women.

Videos on newborn

These training videos have been provided by the Global Health Media Project and are based on standards of care described in: Care of the Newborn Reference Manual, Save the Children, 2004; Managing Newborn Problems, WHO, 2003; and Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses Chart Booklet, WHO, 2011.

Videos on pregnancy and childbirth

Other WHO programmes working on maternal and newborn health