Georgia hosts meeting on improving antenatal care in eastern Europe and central Asia

WHO/David Kharatishvili

From right to left: Nino Berdzuli, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, David Sergeenko, Minister of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, and Marijan Ivanusa, Head of WHO Country Office, Georgia.

At the opening of an intercountry meeting on antenatal care, the Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia, David Sergeenko, underscored the importance of providing pregnant women with adequate information, stating, “Child development begins before a child is born, therefore the right information and guidance is very important”. The meeting, which took place in Tbilisi, Georgia on 27–28 April, convened representatives from 12 eastern European and central Asian countries with international experts and development partners working in the area of maternal and perinatal health. Over the course of the two days, participants discussed implementation of the renewed WHO recommendations on antenatal care.

The recommendations developed by WHO are based on new evidence collected during last 15 years. They aim to provide a positive pregnancy experience for all pregnant women, as well as to reduce pregnancy complications and cases of stillbirth.

Specifically the guidelines:

  • Increase the recommended number of contacts a pregnant woman has with health providers throughout her pregnancy from 4 to 8. This increases the number of opportunities to detect and manage potential problems and to reduce perinatal deaths.
  • Contain recommendations that outline what care pregnant women should receive at each of the contacts with the health system, including: counselling on diet and optimal nutrition, physical activity, tobacco and substance use, and malaria and HIV prevention; blood tests and vaccination; fetal measurements, including the use of ultrasound; and advice for dealing with common physiological symptoms, as well as issues such as intimate partner violence.

Antenatal care offers the possibility to apply a life-course approach to health

The meeting provided the chance to make connections among a number of thematic areas. As Gunta Lazdane, Programme Manager for Sexual and Reproductive Health at the WHO Regional Office for Europe, said, “Pregnancy is not a disease, but it offers an opportunity for health-care providers to work across sectors to address many aspects of health: prevention and early management of noncommunicable diseases, HIV and sexually transmitted infections, gender-based violence, and many other areas to reduce morbidity and mortality and to improve well-being. The information given to pregnant women is passed from mothers to their children and wider families, from generation to generation, and is a prime example of the life-course approach, as health behaviour at this critical time in life influences health behaviour and impacts health later in life”.