- The World Health Organization has doubled the recommended number of health visits for pregnant women from four to eight, saying it could reduce stillbirths by up to eight per 1,000 births.
- Last year, 2.6 million babies were stillborn and 2.7 million died during the first 28 days of life. Women were also at risk, with 303,000 dying from pregnancy-related causes, according to revised antenatal care guidelines released Monday.
- During 2007-2014, 64% of women worldwide received prenatal care four or more times during pregnancy.
The new guidelines include 49 recommendations covering topics ranging from diet and nutrition, exercise and tobacco use to malaria and HIV prevention and use of ultrasound. For example, pregnant women are advised to take 30 mg to 60 mg of iron supplements and 0.4 mg of folic acid daily during pregnancy.
It also offers advice on pregnancy-related complications like nausea, constipation, leg cramps and pack pain.
WHO recommends women see a health provider during the first trimester and again at weeks 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 of gestation.
“Antenatal care for first time mothers is key,” Anthony Costello, director of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health at WHO, said in a statement. “This will determine how they use antenatal care in future pregnancies.”
Lack of adequate prenatal care is not just a problem in developing countries. Last fall, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Health Maternity and Obstetric Act, or Healthy MOM Act, to make pregnancy a qualifying event so that women could enroll in new or different health plans in time to get prenatal care. The bill, S. 2220, would apply to plans sold through the ACA market exchanges, as well as plans under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
In the U.S., more than 600 women die each year from pregnancy-related complications, and 24,000 babies are stillborn, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. The American Hospital Association wrote to Sen. Brown in February signaling its support for his bill.