The postnatal period, defined here as the period beginning immediately after the birth of the baby and extending up to six weeks (42 days), is a critical time for women, newborns, partners, parents, caregivers and families. Yet, during this period, the burden of maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity remains unacceptably high, and opportunities to increase maternal well-being and to support nurturing newborn care have not been fully utilized. Postnatal care services are a fundamental component of the continuum of maternal, newborn and child care, and key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on reproductive, maternal and child health, including targets to reduce maternal mortality rates and end preventable deaths of newborns.
In line with the SDGs and the Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health, and in accordance with a human rights-based approach, postnatal care efforts must expand beyond coverage and survival alone to include quality of care. This guideline aims to improve the quality of essential, routine postnatal care for women and newborns with the ultimate goal of improving maternal and newborn health and well-being. It recognizes a “positive postnatal experience” as a significant end point for all women giving birth and their newborns, laying the platform for improved short- and long-term health and well-being. A positive postnatal experience is defined as one in which women, newborns, partners, parents, caregivers and families receive information, reassurance and support in a consistent manner from motivated health workers; where a resourced and flexible health system recognizes the needs of women and babies, and respects their cultural context.
This is a consolidated guideline of new and existing recommendations on routine postnatal care for women and newborns receiving facility- or community-based postnatal care in any resource setting. It provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for care during the postnatal period, focusing on the essential package that all women and newborns should receive, with due attention to quality of care; that is, the provision and experience of care. This guideline updates and expands upon the 2014 WHO recommendations on postnatal care of the mother and newborn, and complements existing WHO guidelines on the management of postnatal complications.