What is Facts for Life?
Using Facts for Life
Safe Motherhood and Newborn Health
Child Development and Early Learning
Nutrition and Growth
Coughs, Colds and More Serious Illnesses
Emergencies: Preparedness and Response
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Every pregnancy is special. All pregnant women need at least four prenatal care visits to help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women and their families need to be able to recognize the signs of labour and the warning signs of pregnancy complications. They need to have plans and resources for obtaining skilled care for the birth and immediate help if problems arise.
When a young woman begins to be sexually active, she needs information about pregnancy and the risks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. She should be able to recognize the early signs of pregnancy. If she becomes pregnant, she should be supported to receive prenatal care early in the pregnancy from a trained health worker. She should learn about the normal phases of pregnancy and how to keep herself and her baby healthy during the pregnancy. She needs to know the warning signs of serious pregnancy complications.
A pregnant woman needs at least four prenatal visits with a trained health worker during every pregnancy. The first prenatal visit should take place as early as possible, ideally in the first three months (the first trimester) of pregnancy, and the other three visits can be scheduled to take place at predetermined times during the remainder of the pregnancy.
To help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy, a trained health worker or skilled birth attendant should:
A pregnant woman who is HIV-positive should consult a trained health worker for counselling on how to reduce the risk of infecting her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding and how to care for herself and her baby. A pregnant woman who thinks she may be infected with HIV should be supported to get tested and receive counselling. The father-to-be should also be tested and counselled (refer to the HIV chapter for more information).
Every pregnant woman and her family need to know that pregnancy and childbearing can have risks. They should be able to recognize the warning signs.
It is generally recommended that women give birth in a facility and with a skilled birth attendant, since complications cannot be predicted. For some women, this is even more important because the possibility of complications increases if they:
A pregnant woman should be supported to recognize the signs of labour and know when it is time to seek a skilled birth attendant to assist with the birth.
The signs of labour include any one of the following:
Warning signs during pregnancy include:
Signs that mean help is needed immediately include:
During the prenatal visits, the pregnant woman and her family should be supported in preparing for the birth and possible complications by developing a plan that specifies:
Because conditions may change, the plan for the birth and possible complications should be updated during every prenatal care visit as the pregnancy progresses.
The plan for emergency care in case of complications should include the location of the nearest maternity clinic or hospital and the resources needed to quickly get the woman there at any time of the day or night.
All pregnant women should have access to a maternity clinic or hospital when they give birth. This is particularly important if the woman and her family are aware that the birth is likely to be difficult. In some cases, where distance and/or an expected risky birth are factors, it may be preferable to have the mother-to-be move closer to the clinic or hospital as her due date approaches so she is within quick reach of health services.
Health workers, families and communities need to give special attention to pregnant adolescents because they are at higher risk of pregnancy complications and in some cases they may lack the influence to make family decisions or ask for assistance.