WHO releases Recommendations on Antenatal Care for a positive pregnancy experience (7 November 2016)

The World Health Organization has released a new series of recommendations to improve quality of antenatal care in order to reduce the risk of stillbirths and pregnancy complications and give women a positive pregnancy experience.

Background Information:

The guidance is intended to reflect and respond to the complex nature of the issues surrounding the practice and delivery of ANC, and to prioritize person-centred health and well-being – not only the prevention of death and morbidity – in accordance with a human rights-based approach.

The scope of this guideline was informed by a systematic review of women’s views, which shows that women want a positive pregnancy experience from ANC.

Positive pregnancy experience: A positive pregnancy experience is defined as maintaining physical and sociocultural normality, maintaining a healthy pregnancy for mother and baby (including preventing or treating risks, illness and death), having an effective transition to positive labour and birth, and achieving positive motherhood (including maternal self-esteem, competence and autonomy).

Key Messages:

WHO’s new antenatal care model increases the number of contacts a pregnant woman has with health providers throughout her pregnancy from four to eight.

Recent evidence indicates that a higher frequency of antenatal contacts by women and adolescent girls with the health system is associated with a reduced likelihood of stillbirths. This is because of the increased opportunities to detect and manage potential problems.

A minimum of eight contacts for antenatal care can reduce perinatal deaths by up to 8 per 1000 births when compared to a minimum of four visits.

The new model increases maternal and fetal assessments to detect problems, improves communication between health providers and pregnant women, and increases the likelihood of positive pregnancy outcomes. It recommends pregnant women to have their first contact in the first 12 weeks’ gestation, with subsequent contacts taking place at 20, 26, 30, 34, 36, 38 and 40 weeks’ gestation.

The new guidelines contain 49 recommendations that outline what care pregnant women should receive at each of the contacts with the health system, including counselling on healthy diet and optimal nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and substance use; malaria and HIV prevention; blood tests and tetanus vaccination; fetal measurements including use of ultrasound; and advice for dealing with common physiological symptoms such as nausea, back pain and constipation.











Useful Links:

Link to the WHO news release:


Link to the Executive Summary of the Recommendations (English) [PDF]:


Link to the Executive Summary of the Recommendations (Spanish) [PDF]:


Link to the Executive Summary of the Recommendations (French) [PDF]:


Link to the Executive Summary of the Recommendations (Portuguese) [PDF]:


Link to the Executive Summary of the Recommendations (Chinese) [PDF]:


Link to the Recommendations (full document) (English) [PDF]:


Links to WHO infographics on the recommendations:




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