Pregnancy Care Guidelines

Principles of care

This section outlines the proposed set of principles for perinatal care.

In 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a set of principles of perinatal care WHO 1998 that endorse the protection, promotion and support necessary for effective antenatal and postnatal care (Chalmers et al 2001). These principles are embedded in the approach to care outlined in these Guidelines and are included here.

1.1 WHO principles of perinatal care

  1. Care for women with a normal pregnancy and birth should promote normal reproductive processes and women’s inherent capabilities
    Pregnancy and birth should be viewed as a natural process in life and essential care should be provided to women with the minimum set of interventions necessary
  2. Care should be based on the use of appropriate technology
    Sophisticated or complex technology should not be applied when simpler procedures may suffice or be superior
  3. Care should be evidence-based
    Care should be supported by the best available research, and by randomised controlled trials where possible and appropriate
  4. Care should be local 
    Care should be available as close to the woman’s home as possible and based on an efficient system of referral from primary care to tertiary levels of care
  5. Care should be multidisciplinary
    Effective care may involve contributions from a wide range of health professionals, including midwives, general practitioners, obstetricians, neonatologists, nurses, childbirth and parenthood educators
  6. Care should be holistic
    Care should include consideration of the intellectual, emotional, social and cultural needs of women, their babies and families, and not only their physical care
  7. Care should be woman-centred 
    The focus of care should be meeting the needs of the woman and her baby. Each woman should negotiate the way that her partner and significant family or friends are involved. Care should be tailored to any special needs a woman may have
  8. Care should be culturally appropriate and culturally safe
    Care should consider and allow for cultural variations in meeting these expectations
  9. Care should provide women with information and support so they can make decisions
    Women should be given evidence-based information that enables them to make decisions about care. This should be provided in a format that the woman finds acceptable and can understand
  10. Care should respect the privacy, dignity and confidentiality of women
    All women have the right to be treated with respect and dignity, have their privacy respected, and be assured that all their health information is confidential


  • Chalmers B, Mangiaterra V, Porter R (2001) WHO principles of perinatal care: the essential antenatal, perinatal, and postpartum care course. Birth 28: 202–07.
  • WHO (1998) Workshop on Perinatal Care. Report on a WHO Expert Meeting. Venice 16–18 April 1998. Copenhagen: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
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