Information adapted from the World Health Organization, Newborn Health Programme.
Importance of Postnatal Care:
Up to two-thirds of the 3.1 million newborn deaths that occurred in 2010 can be prevented if mothers and newborns receive known, effective interventions. A strategy that promotes universal access to antenatal care, skilled birth attendance and early postnatal care will contribute to sustained reduction in maternal and neonatal mortality. A little less than half of all mothers and newborns in developing countries do not receive skilled care during birth, and over 70% of all babies born outside the hospital do not receive any postnatal care.
Newborns and their mothers should be examined for danger signs at home visits. At the same time, families should be counselled on identification of these danger signs and the need for prompt care seeking if one or more of them are present. Newborns born preterm or with low birth weight, who are sick or are born to HIV-infected mothers need special care.
Newborns born in health facilities should not be sent home in the crucial first 24 hours of life, and postnatal visits should be scheduled. For all home births a visit to a health facility for postnatal care as soon as possible after birth is recommended. In high mortality settings and where access to facility based care is limited, WHO and UNICEF recommend at least two home visits for all home births: the first visit should occur within 24 hours from birth and the second visit on day 3. If possible, a third visit should be made before the end of the first week of life (WHO-UNICEF Joint Statement on Home Visits for Newborn Care). Key WHO documents that aim to improve skills of health workers in postnatal care include Essential newborn care course and the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) training materials.
Executive Summary from WHO recommendations on Postnatal care of the mother and newborn:
The days and weeks following childbirth – the postnatal period – is a critical phase in the lives of mothers and newborn babies. Most maternal and infant deaths occur during this time. Yet, this is the most neglected period for the provision of quality care. This guide updates the previous guidance from WHO on Postpartum Care:
- WHO’s Postpartum care of the mother and newborn: a practical guide (WHO/RHT/MSM/98.3), published in 1998.
- WHO guideline Pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and newborn care: a guide for essential practice, published in 2004
- Guidance from the WHO technical consultation in October 2008 to review the best practices and supporting evidence.
These recommendations will be regularly updated as more evidence is collated and analysed on a continuous basis, with major reviews and updates at least every five years. The next major update will be considered in 2018 under the oversight of the WHO Guidelines Review Committee.
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Other related resources:
- Save the Children: Implementation of Home Visits for Mothers and Newborns: Learning From Three Countries