The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday launched its first ever global guidelines to support women and newborns in the postnatal period — the first six weeks after birth.
Worldwide, more than three in ten women and babies do not currently receive postnatal care in the first days after birth, the period when most maternal and infant deaths occur. The physical and emotional consequences of childbirth – from injuries to recurring pain and trauma – can be debilitating if unmanaged but are often highly treatable when the right care is given at the right time.
“The need for quality maternity and newborn care does not stop once a baby is born,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO, in a statement.
“Indeed, the birth of a baby is a life-changing moment, one that is bound by love, hope and excitement, but it can also cause unprecedented stress and anxiety. Parents need strong health care and support systems, especially women, whose needs are too often neglected when the baby comes,” she added. In addition to addressing immediate health concerns, these first weeks after birth are crucial for building relationships and establishing behaviours that affect long-term infant development and health.
The guidelines include recommendations for breastfeeding counselling and to support parents in providing responsive care for their newborns.
It also includes high quality care in health facilities for all women and babies for at least 24 hours after birth; encouragement of partner involvement, by being part of checkups, for instance, as well as providing support to the woman and attending to the newborn; and screening for postnatal maternal depression and anxiety.