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Journey Into The First 1000 Days
First stage: Pregnancy (270 days)
The right care and support throughout pregnancy are essential to the success of a child’s first 1,000 days. However, only 64 percent of women worldwide have access to prenatal care throughout their pregnancy according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2016, the United Nations agency found that 2.7 million babies did not survive the first 28 days of life while another 2.6 million babies were stillborn. Over 300,000 women also died due to pregnancy-related causes.
With prenatal care, midwives and other health professionals can deliver a positive pregnancy experience along with crucial and life-saving interventions. They can help women attain appropriate nutrition and a healthier lifestyle to prevent poor and stunted child growth. “Pregnancy should be a positive experience for all women and they should receive care that respects their dignity,” said Dr. Ian Askew, Director of Reproductive Health and Research, WHO.
The WHO model recommends a minimum of eight contacts for antenatal care, which can reduce perinatal deaths by up to 8 per 1,000 births when compared to a minimum of four visits. Pregnant women are advised to have their first contact in the first 12 weeks’ gestation, followed by contacts at 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks’ gestation.
A higher frequency of prenatal contacts reduces the likelihood of stillbirths among women and adolescent girls. These frequent consultations also address potential problems that might lead to complications or major health issues. First-time mothers will also be more capable of managing future pregnancies.
The new model can improve maternal and fetal assessments and foster better communication between pregnant women and their health providers. Specific recommendations from WHO include counselling about healthy eating and keeping physically active during pregnancy; daily oral iron and folic acid supplementation to prevent maternal anemia, low birth weight, and preterm birth; tetanus toxoid vaccination to prevent neonatal mortality from tetanus; and, early ultrasound (before 24 weeks’ gestation) to estimate gestational age and improve detection of fetal anomalies and multiple pregnancies.