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Fostering Safe Motherhood and Best Strategies: Navigating Challenges in Maternal and Newborn Health in Pakistan

Maternal and newborn health are fundamental indicators of a nation's well-being, reflecting the effectiveness of healthcare systems and societal priorities. In Pakistan, despite considerable efforts, challenges persist in ensuring safe motherhood and newborn care, highlighting the need for targeted interventions and innovative strategies.

Challenges in Maternal and Newborn Health
  1. High Maternal Mortality Rates: Pakistan continues to face high maternal mortality rates, with a significant number of deaths occurring due to preventable causes such as hemorrhage, sepsis, and hypertensive disorders. Limited access to quality maternal healthcare services, particularly in rural areas, exacerbates this issue. According to the National Institute of Health

“In 2019, Pakistan, classified as a low-income country, unfortunately, recorded a significant maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 186 deaths per 100,000 live births. This marked a notable 32% increase from the MMR reported in 2017, which stood at 140 deaths per 100,000 live births”

  1. Newborn Mortality: Similarly, newborn mortality rates remain a concern, with complications during childbirth and the first month of life being significant contributors. Pakistan holds the third position among the top ten nations in infant mortality rates. It is estimated that approximately 300,000 infants lose their lives each year in the country. Premature birth, birth asphyxia, and infections pose substantial risks to newborns, especially in resource-constrained settings.
  1. Socio-economic Disparities: Socio-economic disparities play a significant role in maternal and newborn health outcomes. Women from marginalized communities, with lower education and income levels, are at a higher risk of maternal complications and adverse newborn outcomes due to limited access to healthcare and poor nutrition.
  1. Quality of Healthcare Services: While healthcare facilities exist, the quality of maternal and newborn healthcare services varies widely across Pakistan. Inadequate infrastructure, shortage of skilled healthcare professionals, and insufficient medical supplies contribute to suboptimal care and outcomes.
  1. Cultural and Traditional Practices: Cultural beliefs and traditional practices often influence maternal and newborn care-seeking behaviors, sometimes leading to delays in accessing essential healthcare services. Superstitions, home deliveries, and preference for traditional birth attendants can pose significant risks to both mothers and newborns.
Best Strategies for Improving Maternal and Newborn Health
  1. Strengthening Healthcare Infrastructure: Investing in healthcare infrastructure, particularly in underserved areas, is paramount for improving maternal and newborn health outcomes. This includes upgrading existing facilities, equipping them with essential medical supplies and equipment, and ensuring the availability of skilled healthcare professionals.
  1. Promoting Antenatal and Postnatal Care: Emphasizing the importance of antenatal and postnatal care can help detect and manage maternal and newborn complications early. Community-based programs focusing on regular check-ups, immunizations, and nutritional support can significantly improve health outcomes for both mothers and newborns.
  1. Skilled Birth Attendance: Encouraging skilled birth attendants, such as midwives and trained birth attendants, can reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates. Training and deploying skilled birth attendants in remote and rural areas, along with promoting institutional deliveries, can ensure safe childbirth practices.
  1. Health Education and Awareness: Comprehensive health education programs targeting women, families, and communities can dispel myths, promote healthy behaviors, and encourage timely healthcare-seeking practices. These programs should address family planning, breastfeeding, hygiene, and recognizing danger signs during pregnancy and childbirth.
  1. Nutritional Support: Addressing maternal and newborn malnutrition is crucial for improving health outcomes. Providing access to nutritious food, supplements, and micronutrient fortification programs can enhance the health and well-being of pregnant women and newborns, reducing the risk of complications and mortality.
  1. Empowering Women: Empowering women through education, economic opportunities, and decision-making autonomy can positively impact maternal and newborn health. Women who are educated and financially independent are more likely to seek healthcare services, adopt healthy practices, and make informed choices regarding pregnancy and childbirth.
  1. Community Engagement and Participation: Engaging communities and involving local stakeholders in maternal and newborn health initiatives is essential for their success and sustainability. Community health workers, religious leaders, and traditional birth attendants can serve as trusted sources of information and support, facilitating behavior change and healthcare utilization.

Improving maternal and newborn health in Pakistan requires a multifaceted approach addressing healthcare infrastructure, socio-economic disparities, cultural norms, and health education. By implementing targeted strategies such as strengthening healthcare infrastructure, promoting skilled birth attendance, raising awareness, and empowering women, Pakistan can make significant strides towards ensuring safe motherhood and newborn care for all its citizens. Policymakers, healthcare providers, communities, and civil society organizations must work collaboratively to overcome existing challenges and prioritize maternal and newborn health as a national priority. Only through collective efforts can Pakistan achieve its goals of reducing maternal and newborn mortality and ensuring the well-being of its mothers and newborns.

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