In the DHS, maternal health refers specifically to health care surrounding childbearing; that is, antenatal care, delivery assistance, and postnatal care.
The DHS maternal health indicators measure maternal health care against national recommendations, such as the recommended number of antenatal care visits and the preferred timing for postnatal care. The measures of maternal health care are also compared to women’s status.
SPA surveys conduct assessment of maternal health services, including availability of antenatal care and associated equipment and medicines, counseling and observation of client examinations. Delivery services are also assessed, including availability of emergency transport, items for delivery services and essential supplies for delivery.
Health care and counseling before, during and after birth – or the lack of if – impact the survival of both mothers and children. Maternal health indicators help program staff identify the groups of women and infants at the national and sub-national level who are not accessing maternal health services.
The DHS Comparative Report, Levels and Trends in the Use of Maternal Health Services in Developing Countries, shows that overall, the use of antenatal care services has increased worldwide.