Promoting Perinatal Health is an Urgent Need

December 17th, 2009 healthwiki

Despite significant improvement in medical science in recent decades, mothers and their babies in the third world countries like Bangladesh are still at risk during the perinatal period, which covers pregnancy, delivery and the postpartum.

Babies born too early are more likely to die than that of born at term. They are also more likely to have neurological and developmental disorders that carry long-term consequences for their quality of life, their families and for health and social services.

Perinatal health includes care for both mother and their new born babies. But we often forget about the care of the mothers during and after delivery. However, maternal deaths are less than babies. This is a tragic event as a significant proportion of these deaths are associated with substandard care.

When we talk about paediatrics (child care), it only deals with children. And the obstetricians deal with mothers only. But we need to set up a sturdy bridge in between these two separate entities. It is impossible to think about healthy child without healthy mother. In fact, perinatal science deals with a unique two in one health delivery system.

Bangladesh has made a significant progress in reducing maternal and infant death in recent years. This has been possible because of strong leadership of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) in creating a supportive policy environment, technical and financial commitment of donors and UN agencies, active engagement of professional bodies and academic institutions. National Neonatal Health Strategy has already been prepared by the MOHFW. Now we need to operationalise the recommendations outlined in the strategy and begin to roll out the crucial interventions needed to prevent unnecessary deaths.

Immediate and early postnatal care for mothers and newborns is one such crucial intervention. Most of maternal and newborn deaths occur within the first three days of childbirth. Therefore we need to deliver the services to them in those crucial days.

Neonatal sepsis (infection of the newborn) is the single largest contributor to neonatal mortality. We need to ensure that the health service providers at community level can prevent, detect and manage sepsis when it occurs. Now operation research is underway to see the feasibility of different approaches in order to determine the best way to deliver this service to the majority of the newborns who are born at home.

We need to strengthen the policies, guidelines and service providers’ capacity to ensure that the neonates and the mothers are not left without care. Unless we can scale up these services to reach the primary level of health system, we will not be able to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. We need to create additional posts of neonatologists and obstetricians at the district hospital level as a starting point.

Prof M Shahidullah.

Filed under: Pregnancy,Women's Health

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