Sexual and reproductive health

Woman lying on hospital bed with her newborn

Researchers in Guinea are turning evidence into impact, improving the experience of women in childbirth

15 May 2020 | In October 2019, new research from a WHO-led study in four countries showed that more than one-third of women experienced mistreatment during childbirth in health facilities. The coordinating institute in Guinea (CERREGUI), with support from WHO/HRP and the HRP Alliance, is working in in partnership to implement recommendations at the national level to reduce mistreatment of women during childbirth.

MSF video
Photo of pedestrians crossing a street

Massive proportion of world’s population are living with herpes infection

1 May 2020 | About half a billion people worldwide are living with genital herpes, and several billion have an oral herpes infection, new estimates show. Published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the new study estimates the global infection prevalence and incidence of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 in 2016.

Sofía Moya
Nurse/Midwife washing hands at a sink in a labour suite

Maternal infections in health facilities: A clearer picture of the global impact

27 April 2020 | New research from the Global Maternal Sepsis Study (GLOSS), a major WHO/HRP initiative, shows that infection has a much larger impact on global maternal mortality and morbidity than previously thought.

The results from GLOSS, published in The Lancet Global Health, are the first to provide data on frequency of maternal infections and sepsis across the pregnancy and post-pregnancy period, in a large number of health facilities around the world.

Parents with their newborn, India

What matters to women in the postnatal period?

22 April 2020 | WHO is developing new guidelines for a positive experience of postnatal care, due to be published next year. To inform these guidelines and ensure that postnatal services can better meet the needs of women and their babies, WHO undertook a qualitative systematic review on what matters to women in the postnatal period. What matters to women in the postnatal period: A meta-synthesis of qualitative studies,’ published in PLOS ONE, gives long-overdue respect to the authority of women’s own experiences.

Young woman speaking out about girls' rights in Rwanda in the House of Lords, UK

Women's health and rights: 25 years of progress?

8 March 2020 | The first article in the series, ‘25 years after the Beijing Declaration we need to reaffirm that women’s rights are human rights,’ highlights recent advances in gender equality and celebrates the rise of a new and determined generation of activists, working together to empower girls and women.

Infographic FGM is a violation of human rights

The economic cost of female genital mutilation

6 February 2019 | An interactive data tool launched by WHO reveals for the first time the current and future financial cost of health care for women living with conditions caused by female genital mutilation (FGM). The total costs amount to USD 1.4 billion annually.

Woman with her children at an Ebola treatment center, DRC

Pregnancy and breastfeeding during an Ebola virus outbreak

10 February 2020 | Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding in an Ebola outbreak face similar challenges as other population groups, but they have specific health needs which must be met. WHO has released new clinical guidelines for healthcare providers supporting pregnant or breastfeeding women in the context of Ebola virus disease. These guidelines will enable healthcare providers, emergency response teams and health policy-makers to improve prevention and treatment measures in an Ebola outbreak.

World Bank/Vincent Tremeau
Health care provider role playing support of women subjected to violence during a training workshop, Namibia

Training healthcare providers to help women survivors of violence

12 December 2019 | On the occasion of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, WHO launches a training curriculum for health-care providers to help women survivors of violence. When healthcare providers are properly trained, they can make a big difference in addressing not only the physical injuries caused by violence against women, but also the mental, sexual and emotional hurt. WHO’s new training curriculum helps health-care providers gain the knowledge and skills that they need to support women survivors of violence. This contributes to providing essential quality health care to women and achieving UHC.

WHO/A. Amin
Photo of a female health-care worker discussing with a woman.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

25 November 2019 | Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – a global effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women. Worldwide, women continue to face violence at epidemic proportions; WHO estimates that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and / or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner.

Woman and her newborn, Myanmar

New WHO evidence on mistreatment of women during childbirth

9 October 2019 | New evidence from a WHO-led study in four countries shows that more than one-third of women experienced mistreatment during childbirth in health facilities. The study, carried out in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria showed that women were at the highest risk of experiencing physical and verbal abuse between 30 minutes before birth until 15 minutes after birth. Younger, less-educated women were most at risk, suggesting inequalities in how women are treated during childbirth. Addressing these inequalities and promoting respectful maternity care for all women is critical to improve health equity and quality.

Image of report front cover

Maternal deaths decline slowly with vast inequalities worldwide

19 September 2019 | A new report on maternal mortality, released today by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division, estimates a worldwide number of 295 000 maternal deaths in 2017. This figure represents a 38% reduction since the year 2000 an average reduction of just under 3% per year. For women, this means that the global lifetime risk of maternal mortality – the risk that a 15-year old girl will die eventually from a maternal cause –was approximately 1 in 190 for 2017, nearly half of the level of risk in 2000.

A midwife providing a woman with family planning counseling, and options at a health center, Senegal

WHO updates recommendations for contraceptive eligibility for women at high risk of HIV

29 August 2019 | WHO has changed its recommendations for progestogen-only injectables and intrauterine devices (IUDs) for women at high risk of HIV from a Category 2 to a Category 1. Additional clarifications are provided for the IUD recommendation.

Jonathan Torgovnik
School girls who will receive HPV vaccine in Brazil

International Youth Day 2019

12 August 2019 | The theme of International Youth Day 2019 is "Transforming Education", highlighting the need to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all young people. Education is essential to prepare children and young people for their lives. It is also pivotal to good health, gender equality, peace and security.

Close of up woman's hands holding self-administered injectable contraceptive

Expanding access to health services with self-care interventions

24 June 2019 | At least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services. By 2035, there will be an estimated shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workers. Around 1 in 5 of the world’s population will be living in settings that are experiencing humanitarian crises. At the same time, new diagnostics, devices, drugs and digital innovations are transforming how people interact with the health sector.
In response to this, WHO launched its first guideline on self-care interventions for health, with a focus in this first volume on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Some of the interventions include self-sampling for HPV and sexually transmitted infections, self-injectable contraceptives, home-based ovulation predictor kits, HIV self-testing and self-management of medical abortion.

PATH/Gabe Bienczycki, Courtesy of Photoshare
A woman attends a health education session in northern Nigeria

Maternal health in Nigeria: generating information for action

25 June 2019 | Information is essential for change, but in settings where information is not readily available, epidemiological research becomes one of the most powerful sources of information for change. A supplement by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) titled “Application of maternal near-miss approach to audits of severe maternal complications in a low-resource country” reinforces this message.
Nearly 100% of global maternal deaths occur in developing countries with more than half of these deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third happening in South Asia. More than half of maternal deaths occur in fragile and humanitarian settings.

A community health worker providing family planning services and options to women in the community, Uganda.

New study finds no link between HIV infection and contraceptive methods

13 June 2019 – A large clinical research study conducted in four African countries found no significant difference in risk of HIV infection among women using one of three highly effective, reversible contraceptive methods. Published today in the Lancet, the study showed that each method had high levels of safety and effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, with all methods well-accepted by the women using them.

Jonathan Torgovnik
Community outreach on the beach with the distribution of condoms, Kenya

Four curable sexually transmitted infections still affect millions worldwide

6 June 2019 – Published online by the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, the research shows that among men and women aged 15–49 years, there were 127 million new cases of chlamydia in 2016, 87 million of gonorrhoea, 6.3 million of syphilis and 156 million of trichomoniasis. These STIs have a profound impact on the health of adults and children worldwide. If untreated, they can lead to serious and chronic health effects that include neurological and cardiovascular disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirths, and increased risk of HIV. They are also associated with significant levels of stigma and domestic violence.

Jonathan Torgovnik
Front cover of the framework document

RESPECT women: preventing violence against women

29 May 2019 | WHO with UNWomen, together with OHCHR, UNFPA, UNODC, UNDP, UKaid, USAID, SIDA, the government the Netherlands, and the World Bank Group, have developed RESPECT women: Preventing violence against women. The framework contains a set of action-oriented steps that enables policymakers and health implementers to design, plan, implement, monitor and evaluate interventions and programmes using seven strategies to prevent VAW. The strategies are summarized in RESPECT, with each letter representing one strategy.

Progress report on HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections 2019

WHO releases the first integrated progress report on HIV, hepatitis and STIs

23 May 2019 – The new progress report being released today at the 72nd World Health Assembly reviews success and challenges in implementing the global health sector strategies, 2016-2021 on HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The report also outlines 8 joint actions for accelerating progress towards universal health coverage.


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.

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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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.

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