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Opportunities to Reduce Maternal and Infant Mortality

Prevention measures to reduce maternal and infant mortality and to promote the health of all childbearing-aged women and their newborns should start before conception and continue through the postpartum period. Some of these prevention measures include the following:

Before conception

  • Screen women for health risks and pre-existing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Counsel women about contraception and provide access to effective family planning services (to prevent unintended pregnancies and unnecessary abortions).
  • Counsel women about the benefits of good nutrition; encourage women especially to consume adequate amounts of folic acid supplements (to prevent neural tube defects) and iron.
  • Advise women to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs.
  • Advise women about the value of regular physical exercise.

During pregnancy

  • Provide women with early access to high-quality care throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Such care includes risk-appropriate care, treatment for complications, and the use of antenatal corticosteroids when appropriate.
  • Monitor and, when appropriate, treat pre-existing chronic conditions.
  • Screen for and, when appropriate, treat reproductive tract infections including bacterial vaginosis, group B streptococcus infections, and human immunodeficiency virus.
  • Vaccinate women against influenza, if appropriate.
  • Continue counseling against use of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
  • Continue counseling about nutrition and physical exercise.
  • Educate women about the early signs of pregnancy-related problems.

During postpartum period

  • Vaccinate newborns at age-appropriate times.
  • Provide information about well-baby care and benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Warn parents about exposing infants to secondhand smoke.
  • Counsel parents about placing infants to sleep on their backs.
  • Educate parents about how to protect their infants from exposure to infectious diseases and harmful substances.

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Page converted: 9/30/1999


Safer, Healthier People

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
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This page last reviewed 5/2/01