Sexual and reproductive health

Making childbirth a positive experience

Parents with their newborn baby, Malaysia.
WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

15 February 2018: Launch of new WHO guideline on intrapartum care - Worldwide, about 140 million women give birth every year. Whilst much is known about the clinical management of labour and childbirth less attention is paid to what, beyond clinical interventions, needs to be done to make women feel safe, comfortable and positive about the experience. A new WHO guideline, launched today, contains 56 evidence-based recommendations detailing both the clinical and non-clinical care that is needed throughout labour and immediately afterwards for women and for newborns. One of the key recommendations in this guideline recognizes that every birth is unique, while some labours progress quickly, others don’t and unnecessary medical interventions should be avoided if the woman and her baby are in good condition.

Short period of postoperative bladder catheterization effective for repair of simple urinary fistula

Women at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Ethiopia.
Kate Holt / AusAID
Hamlin Fistula Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

11 January 2018: As part of the World Health Organization’s normative work on supporting evidence-informed policies and practices, the Department of Reproductive Health and Research has produced, as a first step, a new guideline that defines the length of time required for effective catheterization after the surgical repair of simple obstetric urinary fistula as a period of 7–10 days. It is an intervention that can be implemented by any appropriately trained surgeon, including one with less experience, and it has direct health and cost implications in low- and middle-income countries.

Engaging with communities is crucial for improving quality of care during childbirth

Patients at the maternity ward of Reproductive Health Uganda's clinic in Mbale.
Jonathan Torgovnik

15 December 2017: High-quality care for women giving birth in health facilities is crucial for safeguarding their health and well-being. Health care that is based on good quality scientific evidence goes a long way in helping to ensure such high-quality care – but it does not go far enough. The authors of a special supplement highlight how from the perspectives of individuals, their families and communities, high-quality care is that which is delivered with respect, with skill, and in accordance with their needs and preferences.

More women worldwide receive early antenatal care, but great inequalities remain

5 December 2017: WHO recommends that women start antenatal care at a gestational age of less than 12 weeks – this is referred to as ‘early antenatal care’. Early antenatal care is a critical opportunity for health providers to deliver care and support, and to give information, to pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy. Despite this, a recent study shows that many of the poorest women still do not have equal access to the high-quality early antenatal care that can help to ensure their health and well-being.

The Robson classification implementation manual

30 November 2017: In 2015, WHO proposed the use of the Robson classification (also known as the 10-group classification) as a global standard for assessing, monitoring and comparing caesarean section rates both within healthcare facilities and between them. The system classifies all women into one of 10 categories that are mutually exclusive and, as a set, totally comprehensive. The categories are based on 5 basic obstetric characteristics that are routinely collected in all maternities (parity, number of foetuses, previous caesarean section, onset of labour, gestational age, and fetal presentation).

WHO updates recommendation on intravenous tranexamic acid for the treatment of postpartum haemorrhage

Maternity ward in Mongolia
WHO/Yoshi Shimizu

1 November 2017: Improving care for women around the time of childbirth to prevent and treat postpartum haemorrhage is a necessary step towards achievement of the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. Efforts to prevent and reduce morbidity and mortality associated with postpartum haemorrhage can reduce the profound inequities in maternal health globally. To achieve this, health-care providers, health managers, policy-makers and other stakeholders need up-to-date and evidence-based recommendations to inform clinical policies and practices.

New programme reporting standards for sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health programmes

Mother and child resting at postnatal ward, Cambodia.
WHO/WPRO/Y Shimizu

14 September 2017 | Reporting on health programmes often covers what was done and not how it was done and in what context. This information is key to understanding impact and can facilitate successful replication and scale-up. To address this, WHO is launching new standards for reporting on sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health programmes at this year’s Global Evidence Summit in Cape Town, South Africa.

Shining a spotlight on maternal and neonatal sepsis: World Sepsis Day 2017

In the labour ward of a hospital in Bangladesh, a doctor examines a pregnant woman before her delivery.
Ismail Ferdous/Photoshare

12 September 2017 | On the eve of World Sepsis Day 2017, WHO and HRP have joined with the Global Sepsis Alliance to host the ‘World Sepsis Congress Spotlight: Maternal and Neonatal Sepsis’, a free online congress shining a spotlight on these neglected aspects of sepsis.

Continuous support during childbirth may improve health outcomes for women and infants

A local female health advisor tends to a pregnant woman at a health centre in India.

11 July 2017 | More women are now giving birth in health facilities, but poor quality of care can put their lives and well-being – and that of their infants – at risk. It is therefore crucial to ensure that women and their newborn infants are provided with respectful, high quality care throughout pregnancy and childbirth. One potential way to improve quality of care during childbirth in health facilities may be for women to be continuously supported by another person throughout labour


Quality of care

Pregnancy-related deaths and diseases remain unacceptably high. In 2015, an estimated 303 000 women died from pregnancy-related causes, 2.7 million babies died during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies were stillborn. While substantial progress has been made over the past two decades, increased access to, and use of, higher-quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth can prevent many of these deaths and diseases, as well as improve women and adolescent girls’ experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

Global surveys


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    Clinical guidance, policy and programmatic issues, monitoring, journal articles.

Caesarean section

Every Newborn Action Plan

The plan presents evidence-based solutions to prevent newborn deaths and stillbirths. It sets out a clear path to 2020 with specific global and national milestones.


Mobile technology

Using emerging mHealth best practices — automated reminders and reporting, decision support, multimedia counseling — OpenSRP builds on existing robust mobile technologies to deliver a powerful and dependable application to skilled health workers, empowering them to more effectively deliver and account for the care they provide to their clients.

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.

Videos on pregnancy and childbirth

Other WHO programmes working on maternal and newborn health