Many years ago WHO formulated guidance for encouraging 4 Focused Antenatal Care (FANC) that addressed the reality that 1) ANC attendance schedules were not standardized, 2) service package elements were not clearly laid out, and 3) women found it difficult to attend ANC as many times as some countries recommended. The New York Times reported that WHO now recommends 8 ANC visits in large part because greater action is needed in light of the fact that …
“About 300,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year, the agency said, and more than six million babies die in the womb, during birth or within their first month. Many of those deaths can by prevented through simple interventions.”
The new recommendations number 49 and strongly consider the roles of all health workers from auxiliaries to doctors – stressing task shifting to ensure that women have access to life saving services. Below are extracted some of the aspects that relate to malaria.
- In areas with endemic infections that may cause anaemia through blood loss, increased red cell destruction or decreased red cell production, such as malaria and hookworm, measures to prevent, diagnose and treat these infections should be implemented.
- Malaria prevention: intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp): In malaria-endemic areas in Africa, intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (IPTp-SP) is recommended for all pregnant women. Dosing should start in the second trimester, and doses should be given at least one month apart, with the objective of ensuring that at least three doses are received.
The above recommendation has been, “Integrated from the WHO publication Guidelines for the treatment of malaria (2015), which also states: ‘WHO recommends that, in areas of moderate-to-high malaria transmission of Africa, IPTp-SP be given to all pregnant women at each scheduled ANC visit, starting as early as possible in the second trimester, provided that the doses of SP are given at least 1 month apart. WHO recommends a package of
interventions for preventing malaria during pregnancy, which includes promotion and use of insecticide-treated nets, as well as IPTp-SP’. To ensure that pregnant women in endemic areas start IPTp-SP as early as possible in the second trimester, policy-makers should ensure health system contact with women at 13 weeks of gestation.”
- Task shifting components of antenatal care delivery: Task shifting the distribution of recommended nutritional supplements and intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) for malaria prevention to a broad range of cadres, including auxiliary
nurses, nurses, midwives and doctors is recommended.
Readers should download the full set of recommendations for more details on the above. We do offer a challenge. Since the 4-visit FANC processes, that was adopted in part because of the difficulty in getting pregnant women to attend ANC many times, is still not fully achieved (see graph), we must now strengthen community involvement, mobilization and education to double that target to 8 visits. Efforts must focus on women, men, elders and even youth. Health workers also need education and motivation to adopt a client-friendly attitude to make this new schedule work.