Sexual and reproductive health

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 2107. 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.

Raising awareness on maternal sepsis around the world

Image of women with their babies
Jonathan Torgovnik

13 September 2019: World Sepsis Day. Infections and sepsis affect thousands of pregnant and recently pregnant women every year. Maternal sepsis is a life-threatening infection during pregnancy, childbirth, or the postpartum or post abortion period and results in many avoidable deaths and near-misses with debilitating consequences. Since 2017, World Health Organization has embarked on an ambitious programme of work to both study and stop maternal sepsis.

Keeping global recommendations up-to-date: A 'living guidelines' approach to maternal and perinatal health

Head antenatal nurse providing antenatal counseling and checkups for a group of pregnant women, Uganda
Jonathan Torgovnik

19 August 2019 | An article published today in BMJ Global Health describes an innovative, dynamic approach that is being used by WHO to respond to new, important evidence in the area of maternal and perinatal health. This new approach, called “living guidelines”, uses a combination of continuous literature surveillance, rapid updating of prioritized systematic reviews and virtual consultations with “living guideline” panels to update and develop new WHO recommendations. This can ensure that the latest evidence and updated recommendations can reach health workers worldwide as quickly as possible.

Positive experiences, key to antenatal care uptake and quality

Antenatal care consultation, Cambodia

26 June 2019 | Results from a Cochrane qualitative evidence synthesis suggests that women use antenatal care if they see it as a positive experience that fits with their beliefs and values, is easily accessible and affordable and treats them as an individual.
The review, covering 85 studies and published in the Cochrane Library, shows that women want care that makes them feel that they and their baby are safe, and is provided by kind, caring, culturally sensitive, flexible, and respectful staff that give support and reassurance about their health and of their babies.

Maternal health in Nigeria: generating information for action

A woman attends a health education session in northern Nigeria.
A woman attends a health education session in northern Nigeria.

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.

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

Woman on operating table meeting baby after c-section
Lieve Blancquaert

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.

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

Woman in labour with her birth partner
CC BY license

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.

WHO updates guidance to help healthcare workers prevent postpartum haemorrhage

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

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.

New global estimates on preterm birth published

Woman with her prematurely baby at a neonatal intensive care unit, Croatia.

November 2018: New global estimates show that in 2014, approximately 10.6% of all live births globally were preterm. Published in the journal The Lancet Global Health, and co-authored by WHO and HRP staff, the study underlines the crucial need to safeguard the health and well-being of all women and girls, and their babies, throughout life – including through ensuring access to high quality and respectful healthcare services.


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.

Test your knowledge on maternal sepsis

Videos on pregnancy and childbirth

Other WHO programmes working on maternal and newborn health