WHO Global Post-Natal Guidelines Are Aimed at Ensuring ‘Positive Experience’
A mother and her newborn baby at Karenga Health Center, Uganda.

Between childbirth and six weeks is the most dangerous time for mothers and babies and when most deaths occur, and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new guideline called ‘Recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience‘ on Wednesday aimed at guiding all role-players during this period.

One of the key recommendations is that women and their babies remain at health facilities for at least 24 hours after the birth, and have check-ups at least three times over the next six weeks. At present, around 30% of mothers and newborns don’t get health care during this crucial period, according to the WHO.

“A positive postnatal experience is defined as one in which women, newborns, partners, parents, caregivers and families receive information, reassurance and support in a consistent manner from motivated health workers, and where a resourced and flexible health system recognizes the needs of women and babies and respects their cultural context,” says the WHO.

In total, the new guidelines bring together over 60 recommendations that help shape a positive postnatal experience for women, babies and families. Some of the key proposals include:

  • Identifying and responding to danger signs needing urgent medical attention in the woman or the baby
  • Treatment, support and advice to aid recovery and manage common problems that women can experience after childbirth, such as perineal pain and breast engorgement  
  • Screening of all newborns for eye abnormalities and hearing impairment, as well as vaccination at birth
  • Support to help families interact and respond to babies’ signals, providing them with close contact, warmth and comfort 
  • Exclusive breastfeeding counselling, access to postnatal contraception and health promotion, including for physical activity
  • Encouraging partner involvement, for example by being part of checkups and attending to the newborn
  • Screening for postnatal maternal depression and anxiety, with referral and management services where needed.

Image Credits: UNICEF/Zahara Abdul 2019.

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