WHO calls for quality care for women and babies in the critical first weeks after delivery

The World Health Organization (WHO) today released its first global guidelines in support of women and newborns during the postnatal period, the first six weeks after birth. This is a crucial period for the survival of the newborn and the mother and for the correct development of the newborn and for the general recovery and psychophysical well-being of the mother.

Globally, more than 3 in 10 women and newborns currently do not receive postnatal care in the first few days after birth, when most maternal and neonatal deaths occur. It is during this time that the physical and emotional consequences of childbirth – recurring injury, pain, or trauma – can be debilitating if not addressed. However, they can often be treated easily when the right care is given at the right time.

“We need to continue to provide quality care for the mother and baby even after delivery. Indeed, the birth of a baby is a life changing event. It arouses love, hope and excitement, but it can also be a source of unprecedented stress and worry. Parents and especially women, whose needs are too often neglected at the birth of a child, must be able to benefit from robust systems of care and support. “, Say that D.r Anshu Banerjee, Director, Department of Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health and Aging, WHO.

The first few weeks after giving birth are critical for dealing with immediate health problems and for building relationships and engaging in behaviors that affect the baby’s development and long-term health. The guidelines include breastfeeding recommendations – to facilitate latching and positioning when breastfeeding is established – and to help parents provide adequate care for infants.

In total, the new guidelines include more than 60 recommendations that help women, babies and families have a positive postnatal experience. Here are some of them:

  • All women and newborns should receive quality care in health facilities for at least 24 hours after birth, with at least three additional visits during the first six weeks. This should also include home visits, if possible, so that the health care worker can facilitate the mother’s return home with her child. In the event of a home birth, the first consultation must take place as soon as possible and no later than 24 hours after the birth.
  • How to recognize and act on warning signs that require urgent medical attention in women or babies.
  • The guidelines cover treatment, support, and advice that facilitate recovery and management of common problems women may experience after giving birth, such as perineal pain and breast engorgement.
  • Screening for ocular abnormalities and hearing problems in all newborns and vaccination at birth.
  • Tips to help families interact with their baby and respond to their cues, stay in close contact with him, and provide warmth and comfort.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding advice, information on access to postpartum contraception and health promotion, including physical activity.
  • Promotion of partner participation, who can, for example, attend counseling, support their partner and take care of the newborn.
  • Screening for postpartum depression and anxiety, with referral and support services as needed.

The recommendations specify the minimum length of hospital stay after birth and include indications on discharge criteria, but emphasize that the time required will depend on each woman and child, on the social context, on the progress of the birth and on the presence of any problems with childbirth. health. Further consultations are recommended for healthy women and newborns between 48 and 72 hours, between seven and 14 days, and during the sixth week after birth. If health risks are identified, further consultations will likely be required and treatment may have started well beyond the first six weeks.

“The data shows that women and their families want and need a positive postpartum experience to overcome the enormous physical and emotional challenges that come after the birth of their baby by gaining self-confidence as parents. . Specialized postnatal services should provide essential support for physical and mental health, while helping parents thrive by providing adequate care for their baby. “, said the D.D. Mercedes Bonet, physician of the WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and the Special Program for Research, Development and Training in Human Reproductive Research (HRP).

These recommendations complement a trilogy of WHO guidelines for quality care during pregnancy and during and after childbirth, aimed primarily at meeting the needs of all women who give birth and their babies. These guidelines uphold the right to care where people are treated with dignity and respect and can actively participate in decision making.


The guidelines include 63 recommendations, 31 of which are new or updated. They are now the official WHO reference for all aspects of postnatal care.

The WHO guidelines for prenatal and intrapartum care can be accessed at the following addresses:

WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience

WHO recommendations on intrapartum care for a positive birthing experience

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