Maternal and Newborn Health
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One Mother’s Response: What is integrated care for mothers and newborns?

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Eleven months ago (today!) the most life-changing event took place in my life – I became a mother. The process of becoming a mother requires a support network that stretches beyond family and friends to a health care system that sees to all the needs of the expecting and new mother and baby.

The Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference is taking place in Mexico City this week, placing priority on the goals established to address the urgent needs of women and newborns around the world. Today’s theme is Benefitting Mothers and Newborns Through Integrated Care – and presenters will tackle this issue in various ways. So I decided to define what integrated care has meant to me as a new mother.

What does integrated care mean during pregnancy?

Acknowledging and addressing a woman’s needs, beyond the growth and health of her fetus, is necessary to make sure that her health and well-being is prioritized. Becoming a mother is most often an overwhelming experience, and women (and their partners) need not only care, but education, information and at times psychological support. Integrated care during pregnancy means meeting each woman in her situation, and forming her support thereafter.

In Sweden, throughout pregnancy, women create a relationship with their midwives, who see to their needs from day one. A midwife has the responsibility to understand the woman’s life situation – ranging from her relationships, any experience of violence or sexual assault, to her general health, eating habits and more. In Sweden, midwives are the cornerstone of integrated care for mothers and babies.

What is integrated care during childbirth?

Preparing for birth is an important part of pregnancy, and may sometimes take a bigger part of women’s preparations, than preparing for the new life that awaits with a baby. Having the option to choose how to give birth and who should be assisting her birth is an essential part of integrated care during childbirth. At the same time, one must be aware and open to the fact that childbirth does not always go as planned – as the case was for me. Integrated care means having a woman-centered approach, listening to and respecting her wishes and making sure that she has the options to make informed decisions in what may become a stressful situation. It also means making sure that necessary interventions and emergency obstetric care are readily available.

What is integrated care in the first weeks and months with a baby?

At this time, more than ever, integrated care is essential. Caring for a mother and her newborn requires both a woman-centered and baby-centered approach. During the first critical hours, days and weeks, a new mother needs support to strengthen her bond with her newborn, to support breastfeeding and her ability to care for her new baby in her home.

Evaluating possible postpartum depression and monitoring eventual childbirth injuries is a necessary part of integrating care for mothers. In Sweden I have had the possibility to follow up with the midwife who assisted my birth, to talk about my experience and evaluate decisions that were made. I have also had access to a support line to speak to midwives and lactation experts on any issues or questions that we have encountered.

Integrating care for mothers and newborns is an essential part of making sure that all women and babies access the support they need. No matter life circumstances, all women and their babies need access to essential maternal and newborn health care – and no one should be left behind.

Follow the hashtag #GlobalMNH and @GirlsGlobe on Twitter, Instagram and Periscope for live coverage from the Global Maternal Newborn Health Conference, and stay tuned on girlsglobe.org. 

2 Comments

  1. Hi Julia,
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on these important questions. When women overcome the internal barriers that prevent their active participation in their own choices surrounding pregnancy and birth, we’ll see more and more of the outer barriers overcome as well, including access to respectful care. I think this is a missing piece in the global maternal health conversation. And I appreciate what you are doing to help bring women-centered, integrated care to women!
    With gratitude,
    Carrie

    • Dear Carrie! I realized that I didn’t respond to your comment. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Yes, we need to create environments for women to be able to overcome barriers. Thanks again,
      Julia

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