Sexual and reproductive health

Women face diverse forms of mistreatment and abuse during childbirth in health facilities worldwide

A mother with her newborn baby recovers in a postnatal ward, Bostwana.
UNICEF/Nesbitt

30 JUNE 2015 - In many settings worldwide, women face mistreatment during childbirth. According to the authors of a new WHO-led systematic review, this can include physical, sexual and verbal abuse, a lack of supportive care, neglect, discrimination and a denial of autonomy.

Health-care providers may be the perpetrators of this mistreatment, however mistreatment may also result from a complex range of factors, including diverse systemic failures within health facilities and throughout health systems. The typology of how women are mistreated during childbirth presented in this systematic review is based on a synthesis of qualitative and quantitative evidence from 65 studies conducted in 34 countries.

Quality of care for every pregnant woman and newborn

Mother holding her infant in hospital room
Photo: Lieve Blancquaert

1 May 2015: In a new commentary published in the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, WHO states that quality of care must improve if the world is to end preventable deaths of mothers and newborn babies globally. The BJOG commentary sets out WHO’s priority thematic areas and framework for quality of care, which must be ensured in order to help reduce preventable maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity. WHO “envisions a world where every pregnant woman and newborn receives quality care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period”.

Caesarean sections should only be performed when medically necessary says WHO

Uganda: a young woman suffers from pain during labour.
UNICEF/Noorani

Caesarean section is one of the most common surgeries in the world and rates are rising, particularly in high- and middle-income countries. New studies from HRP show that when caesarean section rates rise towards 10% across a population, the number of maternal and newborn deaths decreases. When the rate goes above 10%, there is no evidence that mortality rates improve. A new WHO statement stresses that caesarean section should only be performed when medically necessary. When performed without medical need, it can put women and their babies at risk of short and long-term health problems. The statement also proposes adopting the Robson classification as an internationally applicable classification system.

WHO launches 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.

Highlights on maternal and perinatal health

 

  • 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.

  • 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.

Developing and strengthening community health worker programs at scale

This reference guide is not a WHO publication, however the WHO recommendations on optimizing the roles of health workers in maternal and newborn health were used extensively in its development.

Innovation

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.

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