Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pregnant? 4 could save your life

By MELUSE KAPATAMOYO

In most African societies, pregnancies are rarely planned, and as a result it takes women a few months before they can make that all important first trip to a health institution for Ante-natal care (ANC).

However, while the woman waits to come to terms with being pregnant, she may be putting her life and that of her unborn child at risk.

Effective ANC which includes a minimum of four visits to a health care centre, has been cited as an effective way of reducing mortality in mothers and children.
A pregnant woman attending ante-natal/ Photo by UNICEF

Dr Mulindi Mwanahamuntu, a gynaecology consultant at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) said the four visit minimum requirement as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is enough for a clinician to identify at least 80 percent of problems that occur in a pregnancy.

“This recommendation is a compromise from having a woman coming every other week to burden the health-system. Sometimes the clinician will ask the woman to be coming to the clinic every other week depending on the problem she may have. But a minimum of four visits has been shown and proven to reduce maternal and child deaths,” he said.

“Opportunities for Africa’s Newborns”, a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) states that to achieve the full life-saving potential that ANC promises for women and babies, four visits providing essential evidence-based interventions should be adhered to.

The essential elements of ANC include identification and management of obstetric complications such as pre-eclampsia, tetanus toxoid immunisation, intermittent, preventive treatment for malaria during pregnancy (IPTp), and identification and management of infections including HIV, syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

“ANC is also an opportunity to promote healthy behaviours such as breast feeding, early postnatal care, and planning for optimal pregnancy spacing,” says the report.

Zambia is among countries in Southern Africa battling maternal and child mortality, caused by lack of commitment by pregnant women to attend ante-natal where diseases such as malaria, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV can be screened early.

WHO estimates that 900,000 babies die as stillbirths during the last twelve weeks of pregnancy. And babies, who die before the onset of labour, or antepartum (bleeding) stillbirths, account for two-thirds of all stillbirths in countries where the mortality rate is greater than 22, per 1,000 births-accounting for nearly all African countries.

Four ante-natal visits could save the life of your unborn child
In addition, maternal mortality remains equally high in many countries too. In Zambia, the UN organisation estimates 830 maternal deaths per 100, 000 live births accounting for one in every 120 pregnant women.

And according to Dr Mwanahamuntu, in Zambia, despite 94 percent of women especially those in urban areas attending ante-natal, less than 75 percent of them deliver in some form of health institution.

“In this case, the whole purpose of the earlier ante-natal visits is defeated. For rural areas where visits drop to almost zero, simple conditions that can be picked up by clinicians are missed. If we are to win this battle and succeed, we must emphasise on institutional delivery of babies. Child birth is a physiological undertaking and women should not die from something that should be normal.” said Dr Mwanahamuntu. PYM

2 comments:

Boyd said...

You always touch my heart with your skill of writting. The issues you raise such the this one on preganncy are always important. The african way of life ( which in my opinion takes away from the realities of real healthy living when one is preganant) needs to be relooked at critically. Subjecting women to heavy household chores in the late stages of pregancy, for instance puts them at high risk of miscarriage or any other adverse impact on their condition which can endanager the lives of both the mother and the unborn child.

I therefore think it is incumbent on husbands/prospective fathers to take keen interest in the pregnancy of their wives/partners in an effort to offer balanced psychological, mental and physical support.

Please Meluse, keep up this good work.....

KAUTA KUMESA said...

I love the way you gather, analyse and articulate issues. i conquer with you, some women are too complacent to regularly attend antenatal. They affect the fetus by excessive drinking and smoking.