New WHO standards specify family inclusion but without output measures


The WHO Standards for improving quality of maternal and newborn care in health facilities (2016) include two key family inclusive principles: informing families and for women to have birth partners.

Having specified families, however, the specifications of inputs, outputs and outcomes relating to informing women and their families do not specify anything in relation to families. What is not measured does not happen, so this omission is important.

This creates the need for a new project: to specify what “informing families” actually means, what steps it requires in maternity services and how success should be measured.

The specified output for women having birth partners, however, does require measuring the experience of the birth partner him/herself: “the proportion of all companions who were satisfied with the orientation given on their role during labour and childbirth.”

The text of the Standards are as follows:

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

4.1: All women and their families receive information about the care and have effective interactions with staff.

Why? Effective communication with women and their families helps them feel more involved in their care, avoids unnecessary anxiety, misunderstanding and wrong expectations and gives them control of their condition, which contribute to a positive experience.

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

6.1: Every woman is offered the option to experience labour and childbirth with the companion of her choice.

Why? Birth companions provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to women during labour and birth and thus have a positive impact on the women and improved birth outcomes.


Photo: UNICEF Ethiopia. Creative Commons.