Maternal and newborn health: Where we stand

Importance of care

© UNICEF/HQ07-1414/Anita Khemka

The factors that place maternal and newborn survival and health across the developing world at risk highlight the importance of a continuum of care. A continuum of care is the process of delivering essential services for mothers and children at critical points in time and at key locations where they can be readily accessed by women and children.

The continuum of care emphasizes that a woman’s capacity to stay healthy, and ensure that her child remain healthy during pregnancy and childbirth, begins with skills, care and protection received from early adolescence. Healthy women who receive adequate nutrition, quality reproductive health and maternity services and basic health care before, during and after their pregnancies are more likely to give birth to strong babies who survive. Similarly, nurtured, healthy babies are more likely to survive into infancy
and early childhood and beyond.

Improving maternal and newborn health does not only depend on providing health services. To be truly effective and sustainable, the improvement of health services must take place in an environment that supports women’s rights. Without actions to address gender discrimination and inequities that are perpetuated against women and girls, actions to support improved primary health care may be much less effective, sustainable, or even possible.

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