Sexual and reproductive health

New findings from the WHO Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health

Image of a newborn baby

The Multicountry Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health (WHOMCS) is the largest study to date assessing the management of severe maternal complications and the prevalence of maternal near miss. New analyses of the study data set covering a wide range of issues, including the major causes of maternal mortality and severe morbidity and social determinants of health, are presented in this special supplement to BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and is freely available from the link below.

Need to go beyond “essential interventions” for reducing maternal mortality

Kazakhstan - A doctor uses a traditional stethoscope to examine a pregnant woman.
UNICEF/G. Pirozzi
Kazakhstan - A doctor uses a traditional stethoscope to examine a pregnant woman.

A large WHO multicountry survey examined data from more than 300 000 women attending 357 health care facilities in 29 countries. This study found a poor correlation between coverage of ‘essential interventions’ (e.g. uterotonics for preventing postpartum haemorrhage; magnesium sulfate for eclampsia) and maternal mortality in health facilities. This study suggests that to achieve a substantial reduction in maternal mortality, a comprehensive approach to emergency care, and overall improvements in the quality of maternal health care will be needed.

Optimizing health worker roles for maternal and newborn health

Prenatal care. Rajasthan, India
UN/Viviane Moos

The World Health Organization’s recommendations on optimizing the roles of health workers aim to help address critical health workforce shortages that slow down progress towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals. A more rational distribution of tasks and responsibilities among cadres of health workers can significantly improve both access and cost-effectiveness – for example by training and enabling ‘mid-level’ and ‘lay’ health workers to perform specific interventions otherwise provided only by cadres with longer (and sometimes more specialized) training.

Highlights on maternal and perinatal health

WHO to trial a new drug to stop women dying in childbirth

Postpartum haemorrhage—heavy bleeding after childbirth—is the leading cause of maternal mortality in low-income countries. It causes nearly a quarter of all deaths from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Assisted vaginal delivery device winner in “Saving Lives at Birth” challenge

A mobile phone, checklist solution to empower women and save lives


Clinical guidance, evidence, monitoring and evaluation, policy issues.

Eliminating congenital syphilis

Approximately 50% of women with untreated syphilis will transmit the infection to their unborn child, resulting in profound adverse outcomes (i.e. stillbirth, neonatal death, prematurity, low birth weight, or congenitally infected infant), including an estimated 440 000 perinatal deaths each year.

Videos on newborn

These training videos have been provided by the Global Health Media Project and are based on standards of care described in: Care of the Newborn Reference Manual, Save the Children, 2004; Managing Newborn Problems, WHO, 2003; and Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses Chart Booklet, WHO, 2011.

Video: Ensuring access to quality care during pregnancy