Sexual and reproductive health


WHO releases first guideline on digital health interventions

17 April 2019 | WHO today released new recommendations on 10 ways that countries can use digital health technology, accessible via mobile phones, tablets and computers, to improve people’s health and essential services. WHO systematically reviewed evidence on digital technologies and consulted with experts from around the world to produce recommendations on 10 different ways that digital technologies may be used for maximum impact on health systems.

A woman in Senegal self-injects the contraceptive, subcutaneous DMPA in her leg.

Self-care can be an effective part of national health systems

2 April 2019 | A new supplement supported by UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Special Programme – HRP and published by the BMJ looks at issues of self-care interventions for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The special supplement includes a collection of analyses, systematic reviews and opinion pieces, providing an evidence base for the development of global normative guidance.

PATH/Gabe Bienczycki, Courtesy of Photoshare
Woman on operating table meeting baby after c-section

Deaths from caesarean sections 100 times higher in developing countries: global study

28 March 2019 | Maternal deaths following caesarean sections in low- and middle-income countries are 100 times higher than in high-income countries, with up to a third of all babies dying, according to data from 12 million pregnancies. A new review, published in The Lancet, has considered 196 studies from 67 low- and middle-income countries.

© Lieve Blancquaert
Woman in labour with her birth partner

Why having a companion during labour and childbirth may be better for you

19 March 2019 | A new Cochrane qualitative evidence synthesis provides new key insights into the experience of women, families and healthcare providers on having a companion present during labour and childbirth, and factors affecting implementation of labour companionship globally. This new review complements a Cochrane intervention review published in 2017 that explored the effect of continuous support for women during childbirth and which concluded that outcomes for women and babies were improved in the presence of continuous support.

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Illustration with women of different cultures

8 March 2019, International Women’s Day

8 Mars 2019 | The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter. One area in which balance has yet to be achieved is that of science. Whilst there have been many famous women scientists throughout history, in the 21st century, women continue to be under-represented in many regions. On this year’s International Women’s Day, WHO is celebrating some of the women in science and health through the ages and the Human Reproduction Programme is particularly highlighting our very own Dr Katherine Ba-Thike who worked for WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research from 2003-2011, and who sadly passed away recently.

Mary Purdie @drawnbymary
Photo of Gender Equality Advocate, Kenya

WHO marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation

6 February 2019 | Today WHO joins individuals, organizations and UN partners worldwide in marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
FGM is recognized internationally as a grave violation of the human rights of girls and women. It comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced FGM in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. FGM is a global issue however, and there are girls and women living with FGM in all regions of the world. It is therefore crucial that health care workers everywhere are able to recognise FGM and to treat girls and women effectively.

UN Women/Ryan Brown
Photo of adolescent girls

Elimination of cervical cancer as a global health problem is within reach

4 February 2019 | On World Cancer Day, WHO is reflecting on the unnecessary deaths of 300 000 women who die each year from cervical cancer. Every minute one woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer which is one of the greatest today to women's health today. It is also preventable and treatable which is what makes each death a tragedy. These deaths occur most often where women are not diagnosed early enough, and lack access to the life-saving treatment that they need. WHO’s challenge is to ensure that this changes. In May 2018, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made a global call for action towards the elimination of cervical cancer. To achieve that, innovative technologies and strategies are needed.

WHO/Yoshi Shimizu
Image of the guideline front cover

WHO launches new guideline to help health-care workers ensure safe medical abortion care

9 January 2019 | WHO has today launched new guidance, Medical management of abortion. These new guidelines provide healthcare workers with evidence-based recommendations to help ensure high-quality healthcare for all pregnant individuals who seek a medical abortion.

Parents with their newborn baby in a maternity ward, Mexico.

WHO updates guidance to help healthcare workers prevent postpartum haemorrhage

20 December 2018 – Every year about 14 million women around the world suffer from postpartum haemorrhage. This severe bleeding after birth is the largest direct cause of maternal deaths. In addition to the suffering and loss of women’s lives, when women die in childbirth, their babies also face a much greater risk of dying within one month compared to babies whose mothers survive. WHO has now updated its 2012 guidance on the prevention of postpartum haemorrhage with four new recommendations on seven uterotonics.


Standing against rights abuses

10 December 2018 – Human Rights Day – 70 years ago today, the General Assembly of the UN adopted and proclaimed the Universal declaration of Human Rights. Health and human rights must always go hand in hand. People have a right to healthcare, and to be treated with dignity and respect when they access it. Yet, harmful laws, policies and practices, including discrimination and abuse too often prevent people from getting the care they need, and can cause serious mental and physical health harms. Marginalized populations are most likely to suffer abuses, and be exposed to harmful or degrading treatment and practices. Every health actor has a role to pay in speaking out for the right to health, and standing up to rights abuses whenever they occur.

Back view of a refugee woman sitting on a chair.

Displaced or refugee women are at increased risk of violence. What can WHO do?

23 November 2018 | The estimate that 1 in 3 women around the world have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner is one that is widely cited today. Whilst this is a worldwide figure, there is variation in the prevalence of violence seen within and between communities, countries and regions. Even though data are scarce, we know that in humanitarian and emergency settings, linked to an increase in armed actors and a decrease in security as a result of broken social and protective networks, the risk to women of different forms of violence are even greater.

HRP research programme