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DOH vows to continue push for safe motherhood program

Some women embark on the journey of pregnancy and childbirth without knowing the risks. Due to this, Dr. Diego Danila Jr., Division Chief, Women and Men’s Health Development of the Department of Health (DOH) stressed the need to monitor pregnant women.

A very timely concern of pregnant women, he cited, is the Covid-19 pandemic because some of them opt to deliver at home for fear of contracting the virus and the fact that the majority of the hospitals are focused on dealing with infected patients.

This, Dr. Danila said may “increase the risk for maternal death.”

“Pregnant women and those who are about to give birth should not be afraid. We are ready for you. It is more dangerous if you stay at home and will not undergo pre-natal check-up or will give birth at home,” he said, adding that doctors are also available for telemedicine nowadays.

Considerable interruption during the pandemic

Dr. Danila said Covid-19 has had a great impact on women’s access to essential reproductive health services.

Based on their “foreseeable” impact of Covid-19 pandemic on maternal mortality ratio (MMR) efforts, it may cause disruptions in service coverage of the following  components: family planning, an assumed 10 percent coverage reduction in antenatal care (19 percent), newborn care (14 percent), and 19 percent in postnatal care.

“We cannot blame the mothers because we are under lockdown but if there is a need for you to be checked by the doctor, you can go out of your house,” he said, adding that both the mother and the baby inside her womb should be monitored regularly.

“We are even willing to go to you, when needed, because we have barangay health workers who can visit you,” he said.

Maternal deaths

Dr. Danila admitted that the “Safe Motherhood Program” continues to confront the multi-faceted challenges of high MMR and the unmet need for family planning and other reproductive health services.

“But while the government failed to reduce MMR to its desired target of 52/100,000 live births by the end of 2015, the program prides itself with improvements in maternal health outcomes,” said Dr. Danila.

In 2018, a total of 2,318 maternal deaths (MD) were recorded, and it is expected to increase due to the pandemic as some of the mothers are afraid to give birth in hospitals or health facilities.

From 108 MD/100,000 live births, it increased to 118 MD/100,000 live births, or the equivalent of an estimated additional 436 MD.

“Please give birth in hospitals or a health facility for there are doctors, nurses, or midwives who will take care of you,” he assured.

Safe childbirth

Dr. Danila noted that when all the Millennium Development Goals are shifted to Sustainable Development Goals, the program will continue to focus on the health and welfare of women throughout their pregnancy as its contribution to achieve the goal on good health and wellbeing for all Filipinos.

“It shall effectively include adolescent pregnancies and meeting the unmet needs for family planning contraceptives of women into its priority agenda until 2030,” he said, citing the program background.

Their mission, he said, is for Filipino women to have full access to health services towards making their pregnancy and childbirth safer.

“Our goal is to provide rational and responsive policy direction to its local government partners in the delivery of quality maternal and newborn health services with integrity and accountability using proven and innovative approaches,” he said.

Dr. Danila said that the local government units are also helping the DOH in achieving both the mission and the goal of the Safe Motherhood Program.

Currently, Dr. Danila said that part of their program strategies are:

Strategic change in the design of safe motherhood services

  • a shift in emphasis from the risk approach that identifies high-risk pregnancies during the prenatal period to an approach that prepares all pregnant women for the complications at childbirth
  •   improved quality of family planning (FP) counseling and expanded services availability of post-partum family planning in hospitals and primary birthing centers
  •   the integration of cervical cancer, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV screening among others into the antenatal care protocols

An integrated package of women’s health and safe motherhood services

This service delivery strategy is focused on maximizing synergies among key services that influence maternal and newborn health and on ensuring a continuum of care across levels of the referral system. At the ground level, this implies that a woman who seeks care from a public health provider for reproductive health concerns, could expect to be given a comprehensive array of services that addresses her most critical reproductive health needs.

Reliable sustainable support systems

Support systems for Maternal-Newborn service delivery is anchored on Philippine Health Insurance Corp.’s (Philhealth) accreditation of birthing centers and individual membership or enrolment into Sponsored Program.

Stronger stewardship and guidance

  • evidence-based guidelines and protocols on maternal-newborn services;
  • a system for recognizing providers of emergency obstetrics and newborn care (BEmONC) training program; and
  • monitoring, evaluation and research on the new maternal-newborn strategies

“New normal” adaptive plan

To improve the services for pregnant women, Dr. Danila said that they are implementing a “new normal” adaptive plan.

This plan includes:

  • strengthening the health system response within the Health Care Provided Network while maintaining the BEmONC-Comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care configuration;
  • ensure continuous provision of maternal health services;
  • maximize teleconsulting and teleprescription platforms for antenatal and postpartum care; and
  • all other activities such as BEmONC training and conduct of death reviews as well as safe motherhood shall be conducted online.

“Just like in a war, we are ready for you [pregnant mothers],” Dr. Danilo concluded.

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