Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped by 45 percent, but every day in Nigeria, about 145 women die and about 1000 babies are lost. The majority, are stillborn or die within the first week of life from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of the maternal deaths occur due to conditions that include severe bleeding, infection, high blood pressure, and complications during delivery.
An additional 7-10 million women and girls suffer major or long-lasting disabilities from complications in pregnancy and childbirth – like obstetric fistulas and injuries to pelvic muscles, organs or the spinal cord.
Poor maternal health and nutrition and the quality of care at delivery and during the newborn period are linked to at least 20% of all disease in children under five.
We can ensure that women survive and remain healthy during pregnancy and childbirth by:
1. Addressing Mother’s health before and during pregnancy through:
• Health education
• Proper nutrition
• Family planning
• Antenatal care – the WHO recommends at least four visits to the health center at 3 months, 6 months, 8 months and 9 months of pregnancy
2. Addressing safety during labor and childbirth:
• Skilled health care during childbirth – It is vital that all births are attended by skilled health professionals because appropriate management and treatment can make the difference between life and death.
• The six “cleans” to prevent infection during childbirth
– Clean hands of the attendant
– Clean surface
– Clean blade to cut the umbilical cord
– Clean cord tie
– Clean towels to dry and swaddle the baby
– Clean cloth to wrap the mother
Newborn and child survival
A baby’s risk of dying is highest in the neonatal period, which is the first 28 days of life. Newborns now make up almost half (44%) of all deaths in children under five years old.
The leading causes, including infection and poor nutrition, can be prevented by some simple practices:
1. Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth – helps to regulate the baby’s heart rate and blood pressure.
2. Early and exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life helps children survive. It also promotes healthy brain development, improves mental performance and is linked to better educational achievement at age 5. Of all nutritional interventions in use, exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life has the highest impact on survival.
3. Prevention of infection through:
– Clean childbirth and umbilical cord care
– Good hygiene and hand washing
– Use of Insecticide Treated Bed nets
– Childhood vaccinations
Health education of women improves the health care seeking behavior of the whole family, which is of particular importance in pregnancy and for caregivers of children under 5. We must ensure that mothers, newborns, and children survive and live healthy and productive lives.