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Facts for Life

Safe Motherhood

Key Messages: What every family and community has a right to know

 
  1. Girls who are educated and healthy and who have a nutritious diet throughout their childhood and teenage years are more likely to have healthy babies and go through pregnancy and childbirth safely if childbearing begins after they are 18 years old.

  2. The risks associated with childbearing for the mother and her baby can be greatly reduced if a woman is healthy and well nourished before becoming pregnant. During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, all women need more nutritious meals, increased quantities of food, more rest than usual, iron-folic acid or multiple micronutrient supplements, even if they are consuming fortified foods, and iodized salt to ensure the proper mental development of their babies.

  3. 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.

  4. Childbirth is the most critical period for the mother and her baby. Every pregnant woman must have a skilled birth attendant, such as a midwife, doctor or nurse, assisting her during childbirth, and she must also have timely access to specialized care if complications should occur.

  5. Post-natal care for the mother and child reduces the risk of complications and supports mothers and fathers or other caregivers to help their new baby get a healthy start in life. The mother and child should be checked regularly during the first 24 hours after childbirth, in the first week, and again six weeks after birth. If there are complications, more frequent checkups are necessary.

  6. A healthy mother, a safe birth, essential newborn care and attention, a loving family and a clean home environment contribute greatly to newborn health and survival.

  7. Smoking, alcohol, drugs, poisons and pollutants are particularly harmful to pregnant women, the developing fetus, babies and young children.

  8. Violence against women is a serious public health problem in most communities. When a woman is pregnant, violence is very dangerous to both the woman and her pregnancy. It increases the risk of miscarriage, premature labour and having a low-birthweight baby.

  9. In the workplace, pregnant women and mothers should be protected from discrimination and exposure to health risks and granted time to breastfeed or express breastmilk. They should be entitled to maternity leave, employment protection, medical benefits and, where applicable, cash support.

  10. Every woman has the right to quality health care, especially a pregnant woman or a new mother. Health workers should be technically competent and sensitive to cultural practices and should treat all women, including adolescent girls, with respect.