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A positive postnatal experience: World Health Organization recommendations

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This is a summary of the following report: World Health Organization (2022) WHO recommendations on maternal and newborn care for a positive postnatal experience. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789240045989

The postnatal period – defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as beginning immediately after birth and extending up to six weeks later – is a critical window not only for newborns but also their mothers, caregivers, and extended families. However, maternal and neonatal mortality remains high globally and, despite improvements over the last few decades, more work is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on reproductive, maternal and child health. This guidance aims to improve the quality of essential, routine postnatal care for women and newborns by targeting a “positive postnatal experience” which is recognised as a significant platform for improving both short- and long-term health.

This guidance highlights 63 recommendations to improve the provision, utilisation, and experience of postnatal care. The recommendations are grouped according to maternal care, newborn care, and health systems and health promotion interventions. Interventions were also classified as ‘recommended’, ‘not recommended’ or ‘recommended under certain conditions’ based on the guidance of the Guideline Development Group (GDG) – an international group of experts who were assembled for the purpose of developing this report. The guidance includes recommendations on the following nutrition interventions: postpartum oral iron and folate supplementation; postpartum and neonatal vitamin A supplementation; vitamin D supplementation for breastfed, term infants; and exclusive breastfeeding.

The GDG recognised that any recommendations need to be delivered within an appropriate model of postnatal care, as well as being adapted to the needs of different countries and local contexts, whilst also considering the individual women, newborns, parents, caregivers, and families involved. The GDG also noted the importance of the WHO postnatal care model which places the women-newborn dyad at the centre of care. Both the postnatal care model and the broader guidance of the GDG highlight the importance of postnatal care during the first 24 hours after birth, recommending a minimum 24-hour stay after birth in the health facility which entails continuous care and monitoring throughout.

A breakdown of the full list of recommendations can be found in the executive summary of the report.

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A positive postnatal experience: World Health Organization recommendations. Field Exchange 68 , November 2022. p74. www.ennonline.net/fex/68/maternalnewbornrecommendations

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