Patient safety

WHO Patient Safety tool for mothers and babies

The problem

WHO estimates that more than 350,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 die each year from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth, and that these deaths occur almost entirely in low resource countries. Globally, nearly four million newborns die each year within the first month of life. Three-quarters of these deaths occur in the first week, with the highest risk of death on the first day of life. Delayed recognition of early warning signs and delayed access to healthcare are the commonest reasons for the majority of these deaths.

It is possible to significantly decrease the risk of both maternal and newborn deaths. To improve the health and survival of both the newborn and the mother, the early postnatal period is the ideal time to deliver an intervention that increases awareness of danger signs and leads to more timely and appropriate accessing of healthcare.

A new tool from WHO Patient Safety

WHO Patient Safety is committed to improving patient safety in areas of need and to contributing towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development goals.

As part of this commitment, the Patients for Patient Safety Programme of WHO Patient Safety is currently developing a patient held safety tool which aims to increase safety for mothers and their newborn babies during the high-risk postnatal period. The tool will provide a series of safety checks for common danger signs for a mother and her baby in the first seven days after birth. It is WHO Patient Safety's first tool aimed specifically at use by patients and is based on a checklist concept. It is being developed using a ‘by patients, for patients’ approach.

The aim of the tool is threefold, to:

  • ensure safe discharge from skilled care
  • facilitate a mother’s decision to access skilled care in a timely and appropriate manner
  • empower mothers with knowledge.