Sexual and reproductive health

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

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

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.

Counting and reviewing every birth and death is key to preventing future tragedies

Mother holds her newborn baby
WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

16 August 2016 -- 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

What matters to women during pregnancy: A different approach to antenatal care

A regular antenatal check-up, Bangladesh.
UNICEF/Noorani

8 March 2016 - International Women's Day: When WHO decided to update its guidelines on antenatal care (ANC), there was a feeling that maybe a different approach was needed. The current ANC guidance was based on a set of systematic reviews of the evidence and a trial and it proposed a model with at least four antenatal care visits (also known as focused antenatal care). It has been widely adopted in low- and middle-income countries, yet in 2012, only 52% of pregnant women had four or more ANC visits. To try and understand why this might be and how uptake of antenatal care services could be improved, a set of reviews were undertaken to look at what was missing from current antenatal care programmes.

The neglected tragedy of stillbirths

Health care worker listening to heart sounds during a pregnancy consultation.
UNICEF//Michele Sibiloni

19 January 2016 -- Worldwide in 2015, for every 1000 total births, 18.4 babies were stillborn, mostly in low- and middle-income countries. Progress in reducing this rate has been slow and at present speed, 160 years will pass before a pregnant woman in Africa has the same chance of her baby being born alive as a woman in a high-income country today. Even in high-income countries rates vary from 1.3 to 8 per 1000 births, a variation that shows further improvements are possible. A Lancet Series of five papers offers a roadmap for eliminating stillbirths by 2030, one the most neglected tragedies in global health today.

Latest news

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.

Publications

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

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.

 

  • 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