BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Safe Motherhood and Breastfeeding



The periods of labor and childbirth are critical moments when a joyful event can suddenly turn into crisis- consequently; there is need for medical attentiveness and preparedness.  The lack of proper medical attention in these periods leads to high burden of maternal deaths as well as large numbers of stillbirths and early newborn deaths.

Globally, about 3.2 million stillbirths, 4 million neonatal deaths and more than half a million maternal deaths occur annually. Up to 17% of maternal deaths occur during childbirth while 70% occur postpartum. Approximately 98% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, mostly due to obstetric complications in labor. Majority of these deaths are preventable.

Safe motherhood is a phrase that encompasses the series of initiatives, practices, protocols and service delivery guidelines designed to ensure that women receive high-quality care in order to achieve optimal health for the mother, fetus and infant during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Maternal mortality can be prevented through safe motherhood and family planning- which reduces 25-40% of maternal deaths. Safe motherhood also decreases maternal and infant mortality or morbidity because most maternal and infant deaths can be prevented through safe motherhood practices. Identified health risks for maternal and child illness or death are poor nutrition, illiteracy, lack of income and employment opportunities, inadequate health and family planning services, and low social status. Several countries have been able to improve maternal and new-born health and well-being in the last few decades. However, developing countries- with the highest burden of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity have made the least progress. As a result, there is an increased inequality between countries and within countries.

Breast milk is the right food for babies; strong evidence exists that babies do best if they consume only breast milk for the first six months of life. Breast milk confers both short and long term protection from infections on babies. Exclusive breastfeeding- defined as continuous uninterrupted breastfeeding for a period of six months, provides more protection and is more likely to reduce the risks and severity of allergies. However, protection can still be achieved when breast milk is combined with some formula. Women who breastfeed their babies have lower risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis later in life.

Major challenges for prevention include how to deliver services and scale up interventions, particularly to vulnerable, inaccessible, marginalized and excluded mothers and babies. Political will is essential at all levels, especially at national and district levels. Policy-makers and program managers need to shift their focus from the development of new interventions to the development of practical strategies that ensure the availability of care and account for every birth and death. Medical policies and practices that can reduce maternal deaths and improve women’s health are also capable and crucial for ensuring newborns’ survival and health. A major limitation in the overall progress of preventing maternal and infant mortality or morbidity is the gap between what is needed and what is available in terms of skills and resources at local, national and international levels. Other challenges include:

  • Lack of emergency preparedness
  • How to maintain stocks of drugs, supplies and equipment in the face of increased demand
  • Inaccessibility or lack of transportation for people who live far away from care centers
  • Ineffective referral
  • Unavailability of round-the-clock quality services ,particularly emergency obstetric care

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