The WHO has revised its guidelines to ensure expectant mothers, as well as their babies, “remain healthy” throughout the nine months.
“Evidence shows that the more contacts the woman has with the health care system, the less likely for her to have a stillbirth or for there to be complications with newborn births,” Dr. Ian Askew, Director of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organisation, told VOA.
“And the evidence suggests the more contacts a woman has, from four to eight [visits], does reduce the likelihood of this.”
The WHO states a minimum of eight contacts for antenatal care can reduce perinatal deaths by up to eight per 1,000 births, when compared to a minimum of four visits.
The new model hopes to detect problems and improve communication between health providers and pregnant women.
It recommends pregnant women should have their first contact in the first 12 weeks, with subsequent visits taking place at 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks.
Dr Askew explained that with eight visits, health problems including nutrition, morning sickness and discomforts can be addressed and solved.
He said the new guidelines will put the “woman at the centre of care”.
The WHO stated that last year, an estimated 303,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes throughout the world. They stated 2.7 million babies died during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies were stillborn.
“Quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth can prevent many of these deaths, yet globally only 64% of women receive antenatal (prenatal) care four or more times throughout their pregnancy,” Askew said in the statement.
“As long as women are having contact with a skilled provider, probably a midwife or another clinical health worker, who has good training in antenatal care, it’s the contact that’s important.”
Lesley Gilchrist, independent midwife and owner of Bespoke Birthing Midwifery Practice said in the UK it is common for some women to have this amount of visits with a midwife or health care visit.
But, she told The Huffington Post UK: “The issue in the NHS isn’t about the frequency of appointments, but the lack of continuity with their carer at those appointments.
“This is an issue that continues within the NHS care model and on which numerous studies and reports have reported a correlation with poor outcomes and lack of continuity of carer.”