Contraception is key to reproductive health

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Today is World Contraception Day, a worldwide campaign with a mission to improve awareness, knowledge and understanding of contraception so that a world exists where every pregnancy is planned. The health of women and their knowledge about contraception and family planning prior to pregnancy plays vital roles in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and good health outcomes for the mother and baby.

Steps to take for health mothers and babies
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This is particularly important in empowering young people to make informed decisions, which impact on their sexual and reproductive health and is supported by Non-Governmental Organizations including The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Women Deliver (WD), as well as scientific and medical societies with an emphasis on sexual and reproductive health issues.

What are we doing?

To tie in with World Contraception Day, Reproductive Health has published a supplement on ‘Preconception Interventions’ funded by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) and edited by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief Dr José M. Belizan.

This leads on from our recent ‘Essential interventions for maternal, newborn and child health’ supplement, which addressed essential steps to take in order to improve maternal, newborn and child care and survival in a series of review articles.

You can take a look through a summary of some of the findings from these two supplements in the infographic to the left, and we’ve also taken a more in depth look into a few of the articles below.

Closing the gap in the continuum of care can improve the health of mother and child

Preconception care addresses the health risks before pregnancy and the health problems that could have negative consequences for both mother and child. It has potential to further reduce global maternal and child mortality and morbidity, especially in low-income countries where the highest burden of pregnancy-related deaths and disability occurs as this article in the supplement describes.

Promoting reproductive planning will help the next generation

Improving adolescent health and preventing adolescent pregnancy, along with encouraging appropriate gaps between births, through increasing correct and consistent use of effective contraception are fundamental to preconception care.

Dietary interventions before pregnancy are needed
The consequences of nutritional deficiencies coupled with the growing burden of obesity during pregnancy and for newborns is discussed in another article in the supplement.

Interventions researchers suggested in order to deal with these diet-based issues, include implementation of nutrition-specific interventions in the preconception period especially to reach women in low- and middle-income countries. Fortifying food with micronutrients is believed to be the most cost-effective large scale method.

Preventing and treating infections can protect mother and child

Infections can impact the reproductive health of women and hence may influence pregnancy-related outcomes for both the mother and the child. These infections range from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to TORCHS infections to periodontal disease to systemic infections and may be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding.

Interventions to prevent these include risk assessment, screening, and treatment for specific infections, which should be incorporated into preconception care. There is convincing evidence- for example in the case of syphilis- that treatment of these infections before pregnancy prevents neonatal infections and consequences to the developing fetus.

Transmission of an infectious agent with the potential for chronic infection of the child, such as HIV, could also be prevented through screening for the disease beforehand.

What else?

These are just a few highlights of what is covered in the supplement, which also looks further into the provision of care for women with chronic health conditions, and the effects of exposure to things like caffeine, smoking, alcohol and drugs amongst other subjects.

World Contraception Day offers us an opportunity to highlight this crucial research, the findings of which we hope will create positive changes for some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. You can read all of the articles on the Reproductive Health website.

Written by Natasha Salaria, Journal Development Editor at BioMed Central

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