By Stephen Kalema
Only 29 per cent of pregnant mothers in Uganda visit health centers for antenatal care (ANC) which has led to an increase in maternal deaths.
According to the new Ministry of Health guidelines, a pregnant woman is supposed to visit hospital eight times for antenatal before they give birth.
At a breakfast meeting on Monday in Kampala, Dr. Placid Mihayo, the assistant commissioner, sexual reproductive health said most mothers attend ANC purposely to know the sex of the babies they are carrying but not for health reasons.
“A mother must start visiting hospital for antenatal checkups when she is at least 16 weeks. However, most of them come normally for scanning to know the sex of the babies they are carrying.”
According to Mihayo, also most mothers do not want to expose their pregnancy until they are six months which ideally means that they will avoid ANC visits hence being exposed to dangers while giving birth.
Previously, the World Health Organisation recommended that women whose pregnancies are progressing normally to have four antenatal care visit right from 16 weeks, 24-28weeks, 32weeks and 36 weeks. This however has been revised to ‘at least eight’.
Also, most mothers still trust more in Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) which has exposed them on risks.
“Normally women don’t come for ANCs visits because they trust in traditional birth attendants who give them local herbs. Yet normally at the last hour, they don’t benefit from them but rather puts them at risk of complications,” said Dr Mihayo.
Another reason given for absconding from ANCs, especially by those from rural areas, most women prefer cultural cares to the current antenatal care provisions in health facilities “Some women see visiting health facilities hospital while they are pregnant as a taboo,” said Mihayo.
According to the recent study conducted by doctors from Mulago Hospital, most women from villages far from health facilities are always skeptical of physical danger while travelling to health facilities. The study also shows that when the promised care is not delivered due to resource constraints women tend to stop visiting the health facility again.
The abusive language used by health workers attending to pregnant mothers has also lead hate visiting hospitals.
“Most of health workers do not talk to us in a friendly manner but lather back at us,” said a mother found at Mulago hospital.
Poverty and education is also a factor why most women do not attend antenatal checkups.
“Our research shows that women who attend antenatal care clinics later are likely to be poorer and have less education than women who attend early. We cannot say this is necessarily true for all poor or less-educated women. But poverty and lower education levels may make it more difficult for people to make the best choices about when to seek health care,” said Dr Mihayo.
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