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For poor Brazilians over a number of generations, becoming pregnant was to start an adventure with an unpredictable outcome. The Stork Network was created so that mothers and babies are a top priority before, during and just after childbirth. Nearly 5,000 municipalities in the program ensure the quality and humanization of birth, from prenatal care until a child is two years old. By the end of 2014, the Stork Network will have invested R$ 9.4 billion in actions such as Centers for Childbirth and the Pregnancy and Baby Clinics.
In 2012, the first year of full operation of the Stork Network, 20,765,796 prenatal consultations were conducted. In the previous year, there were 19,641,979. Through November 2013, there were 23,348,749 visits.
Follow up care with a doctor and nurse, ultrasound and all necessary examinations is now a reality for the majority of pregnant Brazilian women.
For prenatal care to begin within the first few weeks of pregnancy, rapid tests for pregnant women are distributed for free.
When pregnancy is proven, expectant mothers also have access to tests for syphilis and HIV.
The result is that, if in 2000 less than half of the infants (46.2%) were born to women who had access to comprehensive prenatal care (a minimum of seven visits, according to the World Health Organization), in 2010 that percentage was 60%.
Throughout the Single Health System, it is the mother who must make decisions regarding childbirth. In the Lula and Dilma governments, funds are invested to ensure that women decide on such conditions in a climate of peace, free from pressure.
One innovation was the creation of Childbirth Centers, where mothers can give birth without medication, with support of a companion and using baths and massage. In 2013, there were 84 such centers under construction, but by the end of 2014 there will be 104 across the country. Through these centers, the percentage of caesarean sections carried out through the SUS should fall further. Currently, 63.2% of the deliveries financed with public resources are normal births, well over the 18% in the private network.
• Watch the documentary film, “One day in the life,” which shows the experiences of couples in the humanizing childbirth program
Investments in expansion and modernization of maternity and neonatal and pediatric ICUs are guaranteeing an increase in the most basic of rights for young Brazilians: to be born safely.
By the end of 2014, the hospitals of reference for pregnant women considered to be at high risk — with diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or infections — will rise from 196 to 390, with 3,822 beds, 53% more than existed in the country in late 2013. For Lula and Dilma, the qualification went beyond project engineering and the acquisition of technology: the hospitals have received more funds for each medical or surgical procedure in high-risk pregnancies.
Protecting children’s’ health requires more than medical care. To strengthen the prevention of dozens of diseases that can be fatal, almost every year since 2003 new vaccines are incorporated by the SUS system into the official vaccination schedule.
The new vaccines began to be introduced in 2003. In that year, children began to be protected against chickenpox and hepatitis A. In the previous year, the injectable polio vaccine began to complement traditional "droplet" campaigns. Just as important as is the supply of vaccines is the scope of coverage, which now reaches 95% of all children through 35,000 health care locations.
Comprehensive health care of women has not been limited to pregnancy and maternity issues. Attention to heart, vascular disease and cancer — especially breast and cervical cancer — reduced female mortality between 2000 and 2010 by 12%.
In addition to providing one of the most effective drugs against breast cancer to SUS — Trastuzumab — and expanding radiotherapy services, the government has strengthened mammography services for early diagnosis of breast cancer, including mobile units that perform, on average, 4 million annual exams, especially in women 50-69 years old.