Keeping mother and baby safe

| Updated on January 17, 2018


The day of birth is potentially the most dangerous time for mothers and babies. Every year, worldwide, 303 000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, 2.7 million babies die during their first 28 days, and 2.6 million babies are stillborn, says the World Health Organisation.

Most stillbirths and neonatal deaths are preventable with quality health-care during pregnancy and childbirth. Nearly all stillborn babies and half of all newborn deaths are not recorded in a birth or death certificate and, thus, have never been registered, reported or investigated by the health system. As a result, countries often do not know the numbers of deaths or their causes and are thus unable to take effective and timely action to prevent other babies and mothers from dying.

The WHO has launched three publications to help countries improve their data on stillbirths and maternal and neonatal deaths. The first of these publications includes a standardised system for classifying stillbirths and neonatal deaths. The system helps countries link stillbirths and neonatal deaths to contributing conditions in pregnant women, like diabetes or hypertension. Previously, there was no classification system that could be used across all low-, middle- and high-income countries in a consistent way.

The second publication is a guide to review and investigate individual deaths so they can recommend and implement solutions to prevent similar fatalities. The third publication helps strengthen the maternal mortality review process in hospitals and clinics.

Maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR) is a relatively new approach to investigating maternal deaths in real-time by a maternal death review committee (a group of experts) so that health facilities can then take corrective actions.

Published on August 19, 2016

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