Maternal and Newborn Health

Maternal and Newborn Health

Key Points for Providers and Clients

• Wait until the youngest child is at least 2 years old before trying to become pregnant again. Spacing births is good for the mother’s and the baby’s health.

• Make the first antenatal care visit within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

• Plan ahead for family planning after delivery.

• Prepare for childbirth. Have a plan for normal delivery and an emergency plan, too.

Breastfeed for a healthier baby.

Many health care providers see women who want to become pregnant, who are pregnant, or who have recently given birth. Providers can help women plan pregnancies, plan for contraception after delivery, prepare for childbirth, and care for their babies.

Planning Pregnancy

A woman who wants to have a child can use advice about preparing for safe pregnancy and delivery and having a healthy child:

• It is best to wait at least 2 years after giving birth before stopping contraception to become pregnant.

• At least 3 months before stopping contraception to get pregnant, a woman should take care to eat a balanced diet and to continue doing so throughout pregnancy. Folic acid and iron are particularly important.

– Folic acid is found in such foods as legumes (beans, bean curd, lentils, and peas), citrus fruits, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. Folic acid tablets may be available.

– Iron is found in such foods as meat and poultry,fish, green leafy vegetables, and legumes. Iron tablets may be available.

• If a woman has, or may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), including HIV, treatment can reduce the chances that her child will be born with an infection. If a woman thinks she has been exposed or might be infected, she should seek testing, if available.

During Pregnancy

The first antenatal care visit should come early in pregnancy, ideally before week 12. For most women, 4 visits during pregnancy are appropriate. Women with certain health conditions or complications of pregnancy may need more visits, however. Provide care or refer for antenatal care.

Maternal and Newborn HealthHealth Promotion and Disease Prevention

• Counsel women about good nutrition and eating foods that contain iron, folate, vitamin A, calcium, and iodine and avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drugs (except medications recommended by a health care provider).

• Help pregnant women protect themselves from infections.

– If she is at risk for STIs, discuss condom use or abstinence during pregnancy.
– Ensure that pregnant women are immunized against tetanus.
– To prevent or treat anemia, where hookworm infection is common provide treatment (antihelminthic therapy) after the first trimester.

• Help pregnant women protect their babies from infections.
– Test for syphilis as early in pregnancy as possible, and treat as needed.
– Offer HIV testing and counseling.

• Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria. Provide insecticide- treated bed nets for malaria prevention and effective malaria treatment to every pregnant woman in areas where malaria is widespread, whether or not malaria is diagnosed (presumptive treatment). Monitor pregnant women for malaria and provide immediate treatment when diagnosed.

Planning for Family Planning After Delivery

Help pregnant women and new mothers decide how they will avoid pregnancy after childbirth. Ideally, family planning counseling should start during antenatal care.

• Waiting until her baby is at least 2 years old before a woman tries to become pregnant again is best for the baby and good for the mother, too.

• A woman who is not fully or nearly fully breastfeeding is able to become pregnant as soon as 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth.

• A woman who is fully or nearly fully breastfeeding is able to become pregnant as soon as 6 months postpartum.

• For maximum protection, a woman should not wait until the return of monthly bleeding to start a contraceptive method, but instead she should start as soon as guidance allows.

Preparing for Childbirth and Complications

Potentially life-threatening complications develop in about 15% of pregnancies, and all of these women need immediate care. Most complications cannot be predicted, but providers can help women and their families be prepared for them.

• Help women arrange for skilled attendance at birth, and ensure that they know how to contact the skilled birth attendant at the first signs of labor.

• Explain danger signs during pregnancy and childbirth to women and their families.

• Help the woman and her family plan how she will reach emergency care if complications arise: Where will she go? Who will take her there? What transport will they use? How will she pay for medical help? Are there people ready to donate blood?

Danger Signs During Pregnancy and Childbirth

If any of these signs appears, the family should follow their emergency plan and get the woman to emergency care immediately.

• Fever (38° C/101°For higher)
• Foul-smelling discharge from vagina
• Severe headache/blurred vision
• Decreased or no fetal movements
• Green or brown fluid leaking from vagina
• High blood pressure
• Vaginal bleeding
• Difficulty breathing
• Convulsions, fainting
• Severe abdominal pain

After Childbirth

• Coordinate family planning visits with an infant’s immunization schedule.

• Optimal breastfeeding offers triple value: important improvements in child survival and health, better health for mothers, and temporary contraception. Still, any breastfeeding is better than none (except if a woman has HIV).

Guidelines for Best Breastfeeding

1. Begin breastfeeding the newborn as soon as possible—within 1 hour after delivery

• Stimulates uterine contractions that help prevent heavy bleeding.

• Helps the infant to establish suckling early on, which stimulates milk production.

• Colostrum, the yellowish milk produced in the first days after childbirth, provides important nutrients for the child and transfers immunities from mother to child.

• Avoids the risks of feeding the baby contaminated liquids or foods.

2. Fully or nearly fully breastfeed for 6 months

• Mother’s milk alone can fully nourish a baby for the first 6 months of life.

3. At 6 months, add other foods to breastfeeding

• After 6 months babies need a variety of foods in addition to breast milk.
• At each feeding breastfeed before giving other foods.
• Breastfeeding can and should continue through the child’s second year or longer.

Earliest Time That a Woman Can Start a Family Planning Method After Childbirth
Family Planning Method Fully or Nearly Fully Breastfeeding Partially Breastfeeding or Not Breastfeeding
Lactational Amenorrhea Method Immediately (Not applicable)
Vasectomy Immediately or during partner’s pregnancy Immediately or during partner’s pregnancy
Male or female condoms Immediately Immediately
Spermicides Immediately Immediately
Copper-bearing IUD Within 48 hours, otherwise wait 4 weeks Within 48 hours, otherwise wait 4 weeks
Female sterilization Within 7 days, otherwise wait 6 weeks Within 7 days, otherwise wait 6 weeks
Levonorgestrel IUD 4 weeks after childbirth 4 weeks after childbirth
Diaphragm 6 weeks after childbirth 6 weeks after childbirth
Fertility awareness methods Start when normal secretions have returned (for symptoms-based methods) or she has had 3 regular menstrual cycles (for calendar-based methods). This will be later for breastfeeding women than for women who are not breastfeeding. Start when normal secretions have returned (for symptoms-based methods) or she has had 3 regular menstrual cycles (for calendar-based methods). This will be later for breastfeeding women than for women who are not breastfeeding.
Progestin-only pills 6 weeks after childbirth Immediately if not breastfeeding
Progestin-only injectables 6 weeks after childbirth 6 weeks after childbirth if partially breastfeeding
Implants 6 weeks after childbirth 6 weeks after childbirth if partially breastfeeding
Combined oral contraceptives 6 months after childbirth 21 days after childbirth if not breastfeeding
Monthly injectables 6 months after childbirth 6 weeks after childbirth 1 if partially breastfeeding
Combined patch 6 months after childbirth 6 weeks after childbirth 1 if partially breastfeeding
Combined vaginal ring 6 months after childbirth 6 weeks after childbirth 1 if partially breastfeeding

Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV

A woman infected with HIV can pass HIV to her child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. Antiretroviral preventive measures (prophylaxis) given to the mother during pregnancy and labor can reduce the chances that the baby will be infected while developing in the uterus or during delivery. Antiretroviral therapy for the mother, if she needs it for her own health, may help reduce the chances of HIV transmission through breast milk.

How can family planning providers help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV?

Help women avoid HIV infection.

Prevent unintended pregnancies: Help women who do not want a child to choose a contraceptive method that they can use effectively.

Offer HIV counseling and testing: Offer counseling and testing to all pregnant women, if possible, or offer to refer them to an HIV testing service, so they can learn their HIV status.

Refer: Refer women with HIV who are pregnant, or who want to become pregnant, to services for prevention of mother-to-child transmission, if available.

Encourage appropriate infant feeding: Counsel women with HIV on safer infant feeding practices to reduce the risk of transmission, and help them develop a feeding plan. If possible, refer them to someone trained to counsel on infant feeding.

– A woman with HIV should be counseled to choose the feeding option that best suits her situation. If replacement feeding is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable, and safe, she should avoid breastfeeding.

– If replacement feeding does not meet these conditions, a woman with HIV should breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months. Mixed feeding—that is, giving the baby both breast milk and other liquids or foods—is riskier than exclusive breastfeeding.

– To further reduce the risk of transmission, when mothers with HIV switch to replacement foods, they should avoid a prolonged period of mixed feeding. Stopping breastfeeding over a period of about 2 days to 3 weeks poses the least risk of HIV transmission.

— To destroy HIV in breast milk, express and heat-treat milk before feeding it to the infant: Heat milk to the boiling point in a small pot, and then cool the milk by letting it stand or by placing the pot in a container of cool water, which cools the milk more quickly.

— Women with HIV who are breastfeeding need advice on keeping their nutrition adequate and their breasts healthy. Infection of the milk ducts in the breast (mastitis), a pocket of pus under the skin (breast abscess), and cracked nipples increase the risk of HIV transmission. If a problem does occur, prompt and appropriate care is important.

Managing Any Breastfeeding Problems

If a client reports any of these common problems, listen to her concerns and give advice.

Baby is not getting enough milk

• Reassure the woman that most women can produce enough breast milk to feed their babies.

• If the newborn is gaining more than 500 grams a month, weighs more than birth weight at 2 weeks, or urinates at least 6 times a day, reassure her that her baby is getting enough breast milk.

• Tell her to breastfeed her newborn about every 2 hours to increase milk supply.

• Recommend that she reduce any supplemental foods and/or liquids if the baby is less than 6 months of age.

Sore breasts

• If her breasts are full, tight, and painful, then she may have engorged breasts. If one breast has tender lumps, then she may have blocked ducts. Engorged breasts or blocked ducts may progress to red and tender infected breasts. Treat infected breasts with antibiotics according to clinic guidelines. To aid healing, advise her to:

– Continue to breastfeed often
– Massage her breasts before and during breastfeeding
– Apply heat or a warm compress to breasts
– Try different breastfeeding positions
– Ensure that the infant attaches properly to the breast
– Express some milk before breastfeeding

Sore or cracked nipples

• if her nipples are cracked, she can continue breastfeeding. Assure her that they will heal over time.
• To aid healing, advise her to:

– Apply drops of breast milk to the nipples after breastfeeding and allow to air-dry.
– After feeding, use a finger to break suction first before removing the baby from the breast.
– Do not wait until the breast is full to breastfeed. If full, express some milk first.

• Teach her about proper attachment and how to check for signs that the baby is not attaching properly.
• Tell her to clean her nipples with only water only once a day and to avoid soaps and alcohol-based solutions.
• Examine her nipples and the baby’s mouth and buttocks for signs of fungal infection (thrush).