WORLD

WHO issues new guidelines for postnatal care

In the new guidelines, mothers may be screened for postnatal maternal depression and anxiety.

In Summary

• In Kenya, more than half of women (53%) do not receive any postnatal care and less than one-fifth receive postnatal care within 41 days after delivery

• The new guidelines also include recommendations for breastfeeding counselling. 

Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital
Breastfeeding mothers at Pumwani Hospital
Image: FILE

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday launched its first-ever global guidelines that support mothers and newborns in the first six weeks after birth.

The guidelines issued have a list of 63 recommendations that governments around the world should aim for a high-quality healthcare system.

“This is a critical time for ensuring newborn and maternal survival and for supporting the healthy development of the baby as well as the mother's overall mental and physical recovery and wellbeing,” Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing at WHO Dr Anshu Banerjee said.

“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."

Mothers at the Pumwani Maternity ward. They are covered by Linda Mama.
BENEFITS: Mothers at the Pumwani Maternity ward. They are covered by Linda Mama.
Image: FILE:

In Kenya, more than half of women (53%) do not receive any postnatal care and less than one-fifth receive postnatal care within 41 days after delivery.

This low use of postnatal care contributes to high maternal and neonatal mortality.

The new guidelines also include recommendations for breastfeeding counselling. This will help the mother with the attachment and positioning of the baby as breastfeeding is established.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta when she toured Murang’a County Referral Hospital on August 17/PSCU
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta when she toured Murang’a County Referral Hospital on August 17/PSCU

They also recommend access to postnatal contraception and health promotion which includes guidelines for the physical activity of the mother after birth.

The recommendations also detail the minimum length of hospital stay after birth and provide guidance on discharge criteria, but note that the time needed will depend on individual women and babies, social context, birth experience, and any health concerns.

Rose Victoria reacts while holding her infant born preterm at a Kangaroo Mother Care Centre.
Rose Victoria reacts while holding her infant born preterm at a Kangaroo Mother Care Centre.
Image: ENOS TECHE

WHO recommended a gentle whole-body massage for healthy newborns, for its added benefits in growth and development, as well as screening them for eye abnormalities and hearing impairments. Vaccination at birth is still essential.

It encouraged governments to offer high-quality care in the health facilities for all women and babies at least 24 hours after birth, and for mothers to receive a minimum of three additional postnatal checkups in the first six weeks after birth.

These additional contacts should include home visits if feasible so that the health worker can support the transition to care in the home.

In the case of home birth, the first postnatal contact should occur as early as possible, and no later than 24 hours after birth.

A Newborn Unit nursing officer holds Vitamin D complex, a supplement used orally to improve preterm babies, who are prone to developing rickets because they are born before their bones are fully mature
A Newborn Unit nursing officer holds Vitamin D complex, a supplement used orally to improve preterm babies, who are prone to developing rickets because they are born before their bones are fully mature
Image: ENOS TECHE

It stressed on healthcare facilities to know various steps to identify and respond to danger signs, in either the woman or the baby that needed urgent medical attention.

Research says women who experience pre-term births are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems such as postpartum anxiety and depression.

In the new guidelines, mothers may be screened for postnatal maternal depression and anxiety, with help and referral of the management services where needed.

Winrose Ochieng and her husband Kizito Khisa pose with their four months old twins, who were born prematurely. Their weight has normalised after being taken through the Kangaroo care phases.
Winrose Ochieng and her husband Kizito Khisa pose with their four months old twins, who were born prematurely. Their weight has normalised after being taken through the Kangaroo care phases.
Image: ENOS TECHE

“Evidence shows that women and their families want and need a positive postnatal experience that helps them navigate the immense physical and emotional challenges that occur after their babies are born while building their confidence as parents,” Dr Mercedes Bonet, Medical Officer with WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research said.

“Dedicated postnatal services should provide vital physical and mental health support while helping caregivers thrive in providing the right care for their newborns.”

Find HERE, the list of all the recommendations that complete a trilogy of guidelines from WHO for quality maternity care through pregnancy and during and after childbirth.

They are centred on meeting the needs of all those who give birth and their babies.

Evelyn Oduor gestures with her newborn at Kangaroo Mother Care Centre in Bungoma County Referral Hospital.
Evelyn Oduor gestures with her newborn at Kangaroo Mother Care Centre in Bungoma County Referral Hospital.
Image: ENOS TECHE