Last week, I travelled to a village in Southern Tanzania where, at one point in history, women didn’t believe in going to a clinic for antenatal care [the care you get from health professionals during your pregnancy]. It was until they were educated about it, that they had to reform and realise how a visit to a clinician during pregnancy can greatly reduce the risk of maternal death.
It is recommended that care during pregnancy should start as soon as a woman finds out that she is expecting.
This is because, having a healthy pregnancy is one of the best ways to promote a healthy birth.
It even becomes more important when a woman and her husband are fully engaged—this, I realised, during the same tour I made in Uturo village, Mbarali District, in Mbeya.
Men and women are committed, and, this has come with a lot of successes. Coupled with other public health interventions, the community has been able to cut down maternal mortality to ‘zero’ for over 18 years.
When a woman and her partner make a clinic visit together, it’s a time when both can ask questions to the health workers, make regular check-ups, meet other expecting parents and make new friends but above all, share experiences on what to expect.
In Tanzania, four antenatal visits are recommended, for the sake of improving pregnancy outcomes by identifying and managing pregnancy related complications early. However, attendance is not enough—sticking to appointments is essential to determine if the unborn baby is healthy and whether the pregnancy is progressing well.
Benefits of antenatal care:
• Minority of pregnant women develop complications such as hypertension and diabetes. Early diagnosis means they can be properly monitored and treated.
• Provides caregivers with an opportunity to explain the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding to the expecting mothers.
• It’s a time when expecting parents gain insight and get fact-based information on pregnancy, birthing options, how to care for a newborn baby so that they can make informed choices.
• Antennal care is a package for comprehensive care. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that women should receive tetanus toxoid immunization, intermittent preventive treatment of malaria, deworming, iron and folic acid, and insecticide treated bed nets.
• In HIV-endemic countries, such as Tanzania, antenatal care includes HIV testing and is an entry point for prevention of mother-to-child transmission services.
• Antenatal care attendance is also associated with an increase in facility based deliveries and use of postnatal services.
Make informed choices.