Sexual and reproductive health

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

Photo of man holding newborn baby
Photo: Lieve Blancquaert
Antenatal corticosteroids could save the lives of some 400 000 premature babies

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.

August 18, 2014 marked the 500-day milestone until the target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

A pregnant young woman has her height measured in a peripheral health unit, Sierra Leone
UNICEF/Olivier Asselin

With fewer than 500 days to the deadline of the MDGs, much remains to be done to achieve MDGs 4 and 5, aimed at reducing child and maternal deaths and improving maternal health. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, “We should judge the progress in humanity and the progress of any society or country by the way they treat their women and children. They have been lagging behind in the last 20 to 30 years of development. We should give them special attention.” Jason Gale of Bloomberg News speaks with Dr Margaret Chan and Dr Flavia Bustreo about the need to further accelerate progress.

A systematic review of the Robson Classification for Caesarean Section: What works, doesn’t work and how to improve it

JUNE 2014 - Caesarean section rates continue to increase worldwide, particularly in middle- and high-income countries without evidence indicating substantial maternal and perinatal benefits from the increase and some studies showing negative consequences for maternal and neonatal health. The lack of a standardized internationally-accepted classification system to monitor and compare CS rates in a consistent and action oriented manner is one of the factors that has hindered a better understanding of this trend.

Obstetric fistula: Time to end the tragedy

An Ethiopian woman recovers from life-changing fistula surgery at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lucy Perry/Hamlin Fistula Relief & Aid Fund Australia
An Ethiopian woman recovers from life-changing fistula surgery, Ethiopia

23 May: International Day to End Obstetric Fistula - Obstetric fistula is the result of prolonged, obstructed labour. It leaves women incontinent, ashamed and often isolated from their communities. A debilitating condition affecting approximately 2 million girls across Africa and Asia. There are numerous challenges associated with providing fistula repair services in developing countries, including a dearth of available and motivated surgeons with specialized skills, operating rooms, equipment and funding from local or international donors to support both surgeries and post-operative care. Finding ways of providing services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner is paramount.

Highlights on maternal and perinatal health

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

A mobile technology solution to empower health workers and save lives


Clinical guidance, evidence, monitoring and evaluation, policy issues.

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.

Eliminating congenital syphilis

Approximately 50% of women with untreated syphilis will transmit the infection to their unborn child, resulting in profound adverse outcomes (i.e. stillbirth, neonatal death, prematurity, low birth weight, or congenitally infected infant), including an estimated 440 000 perinatal deaths each year.

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.

Video: Ensuring access to quality care during pregnancy