The World Health Organization (WHO) has released three publications to help countries improve their data on stillbirths, maternal and neonatal deaths.
Every year, worldwide, 303 000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life and 2.6 million babies are stillborn.
Most stillbirths and neonatal deaths are preventable with quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth.
Nearly all babies who are stillborn and half of all newborn deaths are not recorded in a birth or death certificate, and thus have never been registered, reported or investigated by the health system. As a result, countries often do not know the numbers of deaths or the causes of these deaths and thus are unable to take the effective and timely actions to prevent others babies and mothers from dying.
The first publication, the “WHO Application of the International Classification of Disease-10 to deaths during the perinatal period” (ICD-PM), is a standardized system for classifying stillbirths and neonatal deaths.
The system helps countries link stillbirths and neonatal deaths to contributing conditions in pregnant women, like diabetes or hypertension. Previously, there was no classification system that could be used across all low-, middle- and high-income countries in a consistent way.
The second publication, “Making Every Baby Count: Audit and Review of Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths”, is a guide to help countries review and investigate individual deaths so they can recommend and implement solutions to prevent similar ones in the future. It also incorporates ICD-PM classification in order to help countries complete at least a basic death review, which is an in-depth investigation into causes and circumstances surrounding the death.
Official reports underestimate the true magnitude of maternal mortality by up to 30% worldwide and 70% in some countries. The third WHO publication, “Time to respond: a report on the global implementation of maternal death surveillance and response”, helps countries strengthen their maternal mortality review process in hospitals and clinics.
The document also provides guidance for establishing a safe environment for health workers to improve quality of care within clinics and an approach to recording deaths occurring outside the health system, such as when mothers deliver at home.
Maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR) is a relatively new approach to investigating maternal deaths in real-time by a maternal death review committee (a group of experts) so that health facilities can then take corrective actions.
Conducting mortality audits and reviews is a key strategy for reducing preventable deaths among mothers and babies. It helps health system managers understand the causes of death, and the contributing factors, so they are able to take corrective actions to improve the quality of care.
Link to the WHO publication ‘WHO Application of the International Classification of Disease-10 to deaths during the perinatal period’ (ICD-PM) (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO article in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology regarding the ICD-PM (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO publication ‘Making Every Baby Count: Audit and Review of Stillbirths and Neonatal Deaths’ (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO policy brief on ‘Making every baby count'(English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO infographic on stillbirths (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO publication ‘Time to respond: a report on the global implementation of maternal death surveillance and response’ (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO infographic on better data to save mothers and babies lives (English) [PDF]: