Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Maternal Survival

Many years ago an aunt of mine died during child birth. I was told after the baby came out, the placenta couldn’t and instead of taking her to a health facility the women gathered around, said she should confess her sins and that would ensure the placenta was delivered. She didn’t do this and of course bled to death. This tragedy is probably replayed in different ways throughout Nigeria where too many women die in child birth. Statistics claim that while Nigeria’s population is about 2 percent of the world it contributes ten percent to world maternal, infant and child mortality.

The World Health Organization defines maternal death as “the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration or site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management, but not from accidental causes.” So what could be responsible for such a high incidence in Nigeria? Generally speaking experts attribute the problem to medical causes like hemorrhage, pregnancy induced hypertension, infections, obstructed labor and anemia. However I think there are some non medical reasons too which I will outline below.

Cultural practices can lead to maternal deaths like the example given in the opening of this article. Other practices include early marriage. Marriage and childbirth is not meant for girls. When an undeveloped body is made to go through the rigors of pregnancy and child birth the results can be disastrous for mother and baby.

Poverty and ignorance is another problem. I love an advert I listen to on the radio some mornings about the NHIS. In the advert a man, Baba Aisha is running after his fowl because he wants to sell it in order to raise money to take Aisha who is sick to the hospital. His neighbor used the opportunity to inform him about the NHIS and how he could get healthcare by contributing a little sum every month. This captures how ignorance and poverty can contribute to maternal deaths.

Another problem is lack of access to basic healthcare. When the nearest clinic is several kilometers away from people as it is in rural areas, help can be too late for a mother.

Finally even if people can access good healthcare and do the right thing; unprofessionalism of some health care practitioners can result in maternal mortality. Recently I read of two cases in the newspapers where relatives of some women are seeking redress for what they regard as carelessness that led to the death of the women during child birth.
These are just a few of the numerous reasons for maternal deaths in Nigeria. Please share other reasons not mentioned here and what you think can be done to check the problem.

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