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Jul 10, 2007
Postpartum care scarce in developing world, new DHS report finds

Calverton, MD – In much of the developing world, as many as 7 out of 10 women do not receive any postpartum care after delivery, according to a new comparative report from the MEASURE DHS Project. Postpartum Care: Levels and Determinants in Developing Countries takes a close look at postpartum care in 30 developing countries, using data from Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 1999 and 2004.

Until now, there has been limited information about postpartum care in the developing world. This study aims to fill that gap. While the use of antenatal care services has increased in many countries, other components of maternal care lag dangerously behind. In particular, the report shows that only about 30 percent of women receive any postpartum care. Postpartum is the period immediately after delivery of the placenta and up to 42 days after delivery. Professional care during this time, especially in the hours soon after delivery, can be critical to preventing life-threatening complications, such as hemorrhage and sepsis.

Among women who receive postpartum care, the average timing is two to three days following delivery. The characteristics of women most often associated with receiving postpartum care are belonging to a household with higher wealth status and having received antenatal care.

The analysis underscores the importance of early and universal postpartum care. This report also highlights specific countries, including Indonesia and Turkmenistan, where despite low numbers of institutional births, many women do receive some postpartum care. Still, most women who do not deliver in a health facility receive no postpartum checkup at all.

The authors suggest that all countries should invest in ensuring that all births — whether at a health institution or at home — are attended by a skilled provider at the time of delivery or within a few hours, to help reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.