Maternal health key to healthier nation

20th June 2014

Investing in the health of expectant mothers is crucial in helping to create a healthier nation, according to a health expert at Sheffield Hallam University.

Professor Hora Soltani, an expert in maternal and infant health in the University's Centre for Health and Social Care Research believes appropriate care for childbearing women can have long-lasting health effects benefiting future generations. Improving maternity care and saving the lives of mothers and babies are among the top eight global Millennium Development Goals. Despite considerable improvements in maternal care since 1990, during which the maternal mortality ratio has halved, across the world 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In her inaugural professorial lecture taking place tonight (17 June), Professor Soltani will discuss how improvement in maternal health could influence the long-term well-being of a child, focusing on how nutrition in particular is key to improving maternal and infant health. Other factors including, postpartum haemorrhage (the loss of blood after childbirth - the leading cause of maternal deaths globally) and nutrition are also explored together with Hora's recent global research study into specialised care provision that found women who receive continued care throughout pregnancy and birth from a small group of midwives are less likely to need intervention or give birth prematurely than when their care was shared between different obstetricians, GPs and midwives. "Both obesity and malnutrition can have serious consequences for pregnancy and birth, as well as long-term public health implications," said Professor Soltani, an advisor for the World Health Organisation on maternal and neonatal guideline and research developments. "My research study into specialist care provision is not a comparison between a midwife and a doctor, it's about trying to raise awareness amongst women that they can have confidence in their own abilities to have a normal birth with the help of midwives. "The perception is that in order to get the highest quality of care, they must be cared for by a senior clinician and that is simply not the case. Midwives provide a sense of normality and by having a midwife they know during pregnancy it allows the mother to feel comfortable and at ease during labour which in turn is much better for the baby."

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