WHO guidelines for selecting a maternity hospital

WHO is looking out for you.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a vision: that every pregnant woman and newborn receives high-quality care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period. That every woman’s right to give birth in a safe, supportive, assisted environment, is upheld.

To this effect, the WHO has outlined eight standards for improving the quality of maternity care. Know the standards and what they mean:

Standard 1: Every woman and newborn receives routine, evidence-based care and management of complications during labour, childbirth and the early postnatal period

Women should be routinely assessed upon admission to the care facility, during their labour, during childbirth, and given timely and appropriate care. This would help anticipate, pre-empt or manage complications and infections in case of both the mother and the infant.

Standard 2: The health information system enables use of data to ensure early, appropriate action to improve the care of every woman and newborn.

Every health facility should have a mechanism for data collection, analysis and feedback. This should be a tool for monitoring and improving their care during childbirth. The mechanism should also generate a complete, accurate and standardized medical record for every mother and newborn.

Standard 3: Every mother and newborn with condition(s) that cannot be dealt with effectively with the available resources is appropriately referred.

Continual assessment of the woman during labour and in the early postnatal period should be conducted to determine whether referral is required, and the decision to refer, made without delay. Referral follows a pre-established plan that can be implemented without delay at any time. Information exchange and feedback to relevant health care staff should flow.

Standard 4: Communication with women and their families is effective and responds to their needs and preferences.

All women and their families should be kept informed regarding care and have effective interactions with staff. All women and their families should experience responsive, coordinated care, with clear, accurate information exchange between relevant health and social care professionals.

Standard 5: Women and newborns receive care with respect and preservation of their dignity.

All women should have respectful maternity care and adequate privacy in labour and childbirth, and their confidentiality should be respected. No woman should be subjected to mistreatment, such as aqphysical, sexual or verbal abuse, discrimination, neglect, detainment, extortion or denial of services. All women should have informed choices in the services they receive, and the reasons for interventions or outcomes be clearly explained.

Standard 6: Every woman and her family are provided with emotional support that is sensitive to their needs and strengthens the woman’s capability.

Every woman should be able to experience childbirth with a birth companion of her choice. Support for a pregnant woman strengthens her capabilities during this crucial time.

Standard 7: For every woman and newborn, competent, motivated staff is consistently available to provide routine care and manage complications.

Every woman should have access to at least one skilled and competent birth attendant and support staff for routine care and management of complications throughout labour, childbirth and the early postnatal period. The health facility’s managerial and clinical leadership should be collectively responsible for developing and implementing appropriate policies. Facilities, for their part, should foster an environment that supports its staff in continuous quality improvement of the maternity care program.

Standard 8: The health facility has an appropriate physical environment, with adequate water, sanitation and energy supplies, medicines, supplies and equipment for routine maternal and newborn care and management of complications.

Water, energy, sanitation, hand hygiene and waste disposal facilities should be functional, reliable, safe and sufficient to meet the needs of staff, women and their families. Areas for labour, childbirth and postnatal care should be designed, organized and maintained so that every woman and newborn can be cared for according to their needs in private. An adequate stock of medicines, supplies and equipment should be available for routine care and management of complications.

These standards are the foundation of a continuum of care of mothers and their newborns. Look for these at a facility near you.

Were you aware of these quality of care parameters? Did you find this information useful? Write to us at info@togetherforher.com and be featured on our website!


  1. World Health Organization: Standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities

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