SEATTLE — Providing expectant mothers with quality prenatal care is an objective for USAID as they work to reduce stillbirths and maternal deaths in impoverished nations.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a crucial role in ensuring the survival of mothers and newborns during and post-pregnancy.
Every year nearly 3 million children die in their first month of life and an additional 2.6 million women suffer stillbirths according to USAID.
“Pregnancy and motherhood ought to be a time for celebration rather than for mourning,” said USAID Deputy Child and Maternal Survival Coordinator Katie Taylor in a USAID blog post.
The epidemic of preventable stillbirths was the focus of a recent series of papers published by The Lancet in January 2016.
“Most stillbirths have preventable causes—maternal infections, chronic diseases, under-nutrition, obesity, to name only a few,” wrote Richard Horton and Udani Samarasekera in a Lancet article entitled, “Stillbirths: Ending an Epidemic of Grief.”
“The solutions to ending preventable stillbirths are therefore practicable, feasible, and cost effective,” the authors said.
Two key solutions to preventing newborn deaths are training birth attendants to provide safe deliveries and quality prenatal care. According to USAID Afghanistan, the agency has helped train more than half of all midwives currently working in the country.
“During pregnancy, adequate nutrition and quality prenatal care, including treatment for maternal infections, keep women healthy and increase the likelihood of a healthy newborn,” said Taylor in the USAID blog post. “These measures have also been shown to improve child development outcomes.”
The services USAID provides to end stillbirths and maternal deaths could see a boost in funding if Congress passes the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015. The act would require the U.S. to create a multi-year strategy to end maternal, newborn and child deaths within one generation based on the legislation.
Additionally, it would establish a permanent Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator through USAID who would augment the most effective interventions in target countries.
Taylor concluded her blog post by stating, “We have set ambitious targets to save the lives of babies, children and mothers worldwide, and we are confident that, with the support of strong global and local communities, we will be able to achieve them.”
Taylor and Donna Vivio, another USAID staff member, contributed to The Lancet’s report along with more than 200 researchers, investigators and advisers.