How Antenatal Visits Can Reduce Maternal Mortality And Improve Child Survival In Cross River BY BETTA EDU

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By CrossRiverWatch Admin

Dr. Betta Edu, DG CRSPHCDA
Dr. Betta Edu, DG CRSPHCDA

The World Health Organization (WHO) today issued a new series of recommendations to improve quality of antenatal care in order to reduce the risk of stillbirths and pregnancy complications and give women a positive pregnancy experience.

According to report from WHO Headquarters Geneva, last year 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.

Quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth can prevent many of these deaths, yet globally only 64% of women receive antenatal (prenatal) care four or more times throughout their pregnancy.

Endorsed, by the UN Secretary-General, WHO’s new comprehensive guideline on routine ANC for pregnant women and adolescent girls complements existing WHO guidelines on the management of specific pregnancy-related complications, the guidance aims to capture the complex nature of the issues surrounding ANC health care practices and delivery, and to prioritize person-centerd health and well-being, not only the prevention of death and morbidity, in accordance with a human rights- based approach.

WHO’s new antenatal care model increases the number of contacts a pregnant woman has with health providers throughout her pregnancy from four to eight. Recent evidence indicates that a higher frequency of antenatal contacts by women and adolescent girls with the health system is associated with a reduced likelihood of stillbirths.

This is because of the increased opportunities to detect and manage potential problems. Eight or more contacts for antenatal care can reduce perinatal deaths by up to 8 per 1000 births when compared to four or more visits.

The new guidelines contain recommendations that outline what care pregnant women should receive at each of the contacts with the health system, including counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and substance use; malaria and HIV prevention; blood tests and tetanus vaccination; fetal measurements including use of ultrasound; and advice for dealing with common physiological symptoms such as nausea, back pain and constipation.

By recommending an increase in the amount of contact a pregnant woman has with her health provider, WHO is seeking to improve the quality of antenatal care and reduce maternal and perinatal mortality among all populations, including adolescent girls and those in hard-to-reach areas or conflict settings.

WHO recommendations allow flexibility for countries to employ different options for the delivery of antenatal care based on their specific needs. This means, for example, care can be provided through midwives or other trained health personnel, delivered at health facilities or through community outreach services. A woman’s ‘contact’ with her antenatal care provider should be more than a simple ‘visit’ but rather the provision of care and support throughout pregnancy.

“To achieve the Every Woman Every Child vision and the Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, we need innovative, evidence-based approaches to antenatal care.

I welcome these guidelines, which aim to put women at the centre of care, enhancing their experience of pregnancy and ensuring that babies have the best possible start in life.” Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General .

The new guideline is welcomed at a time a lot of gaps have been noticed in the former strategy.

Antennal care remain one focus area of our agency just as His Excellency, the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade and His Wife, Dr Linda Ayade have intensified interventions against maternal mortality in the state.

As a state we are working on a law and guidelines to checkmate the activities of traditional home birth attendants.

So we are in the same course with WHO, we would ensure the guidelines are well followed by healthcare providers. We would send a circular to all facilities in this regards.

Dr. Betta Edu is the Director General, Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency, CRSPHCDA.

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