Unacceptable maternal death rates

The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNW) recently struck the bull’s eye when it said the dearth of midwives, nurses and other categories of health workers in public hospitals was hindering the country’s quest to achieve low child and maternal mortality rates.

According to available statistics, Nigeria loses an average of 40,000 women annually to maternal health challenges. The breakdown shows on the average that 3,333 women die every month, 769 die every week, 109 die every day and five die every hour, leaving between 800,000 and 1.2m others with permanent disabilities.

Experts have also argued that some of the pregnancies are unwanted. In some cultural environments, women are unable to use modern contraceptives because of non-availability and inaccessibility, and the situation is worsened by a male dominated society not approving legal abortion services because of restrictive abortion laws and sheer hypocrisy. Even when the pregnancy is intended and wanted, health facilities across the country are mal-distributed, poorly equipped and understaffed to take care of them. Eventually in the process of delivery, thousands die which in itself is a tragedy as most of the deaths are avoidable.

Maternal mortality rate in Nigeria has remained high and worrisome in the face of the advancement of modern medical science which those charged with the country’s health management have failed to tap into owing to poor formulation and implementation of policies and programmes across the board.

Also, the healthcare policy of the government at all levels is not citizen-friendly and does not favour the average Nigerian woman who depends on the public hospitals and clinics to access medicare. But owing to congestion in public healthcare destinations, deplorable service delivery and high charges, many have surrendered their fate to patent medicine dealers, hospital/clinic attendants masquerading as midwives in their neighbourhoods as well as quack healthcare givers.

However, the spiritual dimension to maternal mortality rate needs to be addressed with all the seriousness it deserves. It is this mentality that is largely responsible for the high maternal mortality rate in the country.

Government at all levels and other relevant stakeholders should sensitise pregnant women to the imperative of embracing the right practice of not only attending regular ante-natal regime but also delivering their babies in hospitals. Religious leaders especially should be enjoined to desist from putting the lives of their pregnant members at risk by usurping the responsibility of medical workers in this regard.

We advise expectant women to register for their antenatal care early so that the growth of the babies and personal health conditions of the mothers could be monitored by trained nurses, midwives and other medical personnel.

Many women have thrown their lives away while exercising their faith on the orders of their pastors for natural delivery when it is obvious that a Caesarean Section (CS) would be the best option. Pregnant women should be reassured that when going under the knife becomes necessary as an option, they should exercise their faith by confessing that both mother and child will come out of the theatre alive.

Some pregnant women are known to register for antenatal care in the hospital to enable them qualify for maternity leave only to end up delivering in the church for fear of a CS. There are a few instances where pregnant women went under the knife in defiance of their pastors’ warnings that they would lose their lives and they eventually came out alive. Those ones should be emulated.

 Delivery in the wrong places is commonplace in this country. Besides those who settle for the church to deliver their babies in the belief that there is a guarantee of safe delivery, many patronise local birth attendants whose bills are affordable for them to settle. In most cases, things do not go as anticipated. In the event of any complications, the victims are either abandoned to their own devices or are rushed to health centres when it is too late.

Blueprint Weekend is, therefore, on the same page with the NANNM. Our various governments should listen to the association by providing infrastructure and equipment that will help the available midwives to perform their duties in the hospitals as well as reconsidering their policies on the employment of midwives and other relevant healthcare givers in the sub-sector. Child bearing should be a thing of joy and not a death sentence.

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