WHO publish worldwide guidance on supporting women and babies postnatally

on 04 April 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published global guidance to support women and babies during the postnatal period.

According to worldwide figures, 3 in 10 women do not receive postnatal care in the first few days following childbirth, the period when most maternal deaths in infants occur.

WHO’s guidance recommends that physical and mental health support should be available during the first six weeks after childbirth to ensure the survival of babies and supporting healthy development, while also supporting mothers in their mental and physical recovery.

Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO, Dr Anshu Banerjee, said: “The need for quality maternity and newborn care does not stop once a baby is born. 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 far too often neglected when the baby comes.”

WHO’s guidance contains over 60 recommendations to help shape a positive postnatal experience for women and babies. These include:

  • Steps to identify and respond to danger signs for medical attention in either woman or baby
  • Treatment, support and advice to aid recovery and manage common problems women experience following childbirth, such as perineal pain and breast engorgement
  • Screening of all babies for eye abnormalities and hearing impairment, and providing them with close contact, warmth and comfort
  • Exclusive breastfeeding counselling, access to postnatal contraception and health promotion, including for physical activity
  • Screening for maternal depression and anxiety, with referral and management services where needed.

The recommendations of these guidelines complete a trilogy of guidance from WHO for quality maternity care during pregnancy, childbirth and following childbirth.

WHO’s maternity care guidance and recommendations

Antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience

Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience

Maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience