For one who struggled for a long time to conceive, a missed period, breast heaviness, nipple tenderness and morning sickness always put a smile on their faces.
The signs raise suspicions that fertilization could have occurred! In most cases these women would rush to the pharmacy for a pregnancy test kit. The double lines that appear on the test strip usually confirm the suspicions. But the big question is what should you do next when you find out that you are pregnant?
On Friday morning, I heard over the radio that maternal deaths are worrying in Botswana. From the WHO website, the maternal deaths estimates in Botswana range from 83 per 100 000 live births in 1990 to 280 per 100 000 live births in 2005 and fell to 190 per 100 000 live births in 2008. The numbers are high and worrying, of course. Now looking at these numbers do you think there is something you can do to lower the numbers? The answer is ‘YES there is something you can do?
The antenatal and post natal visits are your answers. In our health care system, we have a program that caters for pregnant women until 6 weeks after delivery. Normally, when health care providers see an expectant mother, they would usually want to know if she has ‘booked’ and all they mean is, has she registered for professional pregnancy care?
Why should women enroll for antenatal care?
All expectant mothers should book with their health care providers to ensure that their health and that of their unborn babies are taken care of properly. Through this program, pre-existing diseases and those that are pregnancy induced can be picked, properly monitored to ensure that the pregnancy is safe for both the mother and the baby. If diseases are picked late, complications can result and the worst case involves the death of the mother or the new born!
Which conditions are we worried about?
Any disease can complicate pregnancy and put the health of the expectant mother and the baby at risk! However, certain conditions are common but can easily be detected even at a health post!
Diabetes: this condition can exist before pregnancy, but can also start after pregnancy. An elevated sugar needs to be controlled to prevent serious complications. Diabetes can be detected with a simple finger prick and all mothers in pregnancy planning stages and those who are pregnant already should know among other things their blood sugar levels.
High blood pressure: It can be pre-existing or can start after pregnancy- the so called pregnancy induced high blood pressure. High blood pressure suffocates the unborn baby and prevents good growth. In worst scenarios, it causes death of baby before birth (intra uterine death). Sometimes the placenta detaches from the womb before time and this may cause bleeding and premature delivery. Sometimes women develop a serious disease called ‘pre-eclamsia’, which is characterized by, among other things, loss of protein in urine and swelling. If the blood pressure continues to increase, the expectant mother may develop a life threatening condition called ‘eclampsia’.
Infections: Some infectious diseases are known to cause problems during pregnancy and may also affect the unborn baby before delivery or even during the birth process. Such diseases include, among others, rubella, hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, Herpes, genital warts and HIV. Some of these diseases are known to cause miscarriages and premature births if not detected and treated or monitored properly.
Lifestyle issues: One who enrolls for antenatal care has the opportunity to benefit from counseling on various lifestyle issues. Issues of smoking and alcohol abuse during pregnancy are addressed. As you probably know, smoking and alcohol cause serious problems in the unborn babies, some which can show late in the child’s life. Use of various herbs, medications and other remedies are also addressed to ensure that the mother is empowered on what to use and what to avoid. If there are issues such as assaults and other forms of abuse, the mother is given access to professional services that would help in achieving healthy pregnancy and child birth.
Where can I get care if I am pregnant?
Many clinics and hospitals are staffed with midwives and doctors who can handle the pregnancy care services. These include both the public and private health facilities.
If you have a relative in rural areas, always find out if they have registered with the relevant clinic and if they are doing regular visits with the midwives or doctors. Through this, you can help to reduce the maternal deaths! Otherwise take care of that unborn baby and enjoy the motherhood!
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