Improving maternal health services in the rural areas: Why Postnatal care is essential
Newborn survival is closely linked to the health of the mother, and it is for this reason that the continuum of care approach should be emphasised in health interventions and policies. The postnatal period (the time just after delivery and through the first six weeks of life) is a very critical moment for mothers and their newborns.
Why focus on the postnatal period?
In Nigeria, about 36% of births occur in health facilities, while more than 62% of births still occur at home. Given the extent to which the deaths of mothers and babies occur predominantly more in the first days after birth, the early postnatal period is an ideal period to deliver interventions that improve the health and survival of both the mother and her newborn. However, health programmes and policies have largely overlooked the opportunities that are enshrined in this critical time-period.
The most common fatal complications for the mother are postpartum haemorrhage; sepsis; complications of unsafe abortion; prolonged or obstructed labour; and eclampsia. Most newborn deaths occur in the first few days at home, regardless of whether delivery was in the home or in health care facility, and regardless of whether a skilled birth attendant was present at birth. Both the mother and her newborn are vulnerable during the first 24 hours and first weeks following birth.
Therefore early contact with health professionals in the early postnatal period is essential and critical to the promotion of healthy practices such as exclusive breastfeeding, hygienic care of the umbilical cord, and extra care of the low birth weight newborn. Early contact provides an opportunity for identification of potential danger signs with timely referral and treatment. For mothers, WHO recommends postnatal monitoring and referral for complications such as excessive bleeding; pain and infection; counselling on breastfeeding; breast care advice on nutrition during breastfeeding; and family planning, preferably in the first 48 hours of life.
In line with Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s commitment to providing tangible life-saving commodities to women and children, the Foundation’s Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) Personal Health Record (PHR) is a transformative means and serves as a reminder mechanism for health-seeking behaviour, and an information source for both parents and health professionals. The health record promotes and encourages preventive behaviours and practices such breastfeeding, cord care,, and helps parents and health professionals detect potential life-threatening complications in both the mother and her newborn
We believe the provision of effective maternal and child health services require clean medical supplies and access to safe delivery kits, such as the Mamakit, a crucial tool which contains essential items used in the safe delivery of babies, and can result in reduced risk of infections for both the mother and her infant, thereby equipping health professionals and women with the right commodities; delivering the right value; and expanding access to information and education that can turn around practices, and help save lives.
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa advocates for increased access to postnatal care, particularly for women in rural areas, to improve health and survival of both the mother and her newborn.
Postnatal care is essential and if provided with resources, promoted and monitored, it can create lasting improvements in health systems particularly in rural areas where most maternal and neonatal deaths occur.
 www.whoint/maternal-child postnatal care recommendations.
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa