By SOLA OGUNDIPE
ONLY half the number of pregnant women in Nigeria and other countries in sub-Saharan Africa are receiving the minimum number of four Antenatal Care, ANC, visits recommended by the World Health Organisation, WHO, to ensure the well-being of mothers and newborns.
This development, which is contained in the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, Report 2013, revealed that in 2011, only 49 per cent of pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa received at least four antenatal care visits during their latest pregnancy.
In 2010, the Federal Government introduced the Midwifery Service Scheme, MSS, and deployed over 4,000 Midwives to 1,000 health facilities nationwide.
According to the Report, health care during pregnancy can save lives, just as good quality care during pregnancy is fundamental to the health, well-being and survival of mothers and their babies.
ANC visits should include tetanus toxoid vaccination, screening and treatment for infections, and identification of warning signs during pregnancy.
During such visits, pregnant women are also tested for HIV; if positive, they receive help and guidance in living with the virus and avoiding transmission to their babies.
The women receive intermittent treatment to prevent HIV infection, thereby averting adverse outcomes for mother and baby if infected during pregnancy.
In Nigeria, commencement of antenatal care within the first 14 weeks of gestation is widely accepted as early and booking after the 14th week of pregnancy is regarded as as late.
Good Health Weekly gathered that most women either register late for their antenatal clinics because of a belief that there are no advantages in booking for antenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy, or as a result of the myth that antenatal care is viewed primarily as curative rather than preventive
Experts say early commencement of antenatal care by pregnant women as well as regular visits, has the potential to affect maternal and foetal outcome positively. It provides education and counselling on expected physiological changes, the normal course and possible complications of pregnancy, labour and puerperium.
Calling for adoption of a population moderation management system, President/CEO, Association for Reproduction and Family Health, ARFH, Professor Oladapo Oladipo, said Nigerians ought to be having only the number of children they can cater for.
“There are many poor people in this country. Let us look at a situation where one man has one wife and three children, and there is another who has three wives and 12 children. There will be a situation where there is transfer of burden from the latter to the former who has moderated his family,” Ladipo asserted.
Further, he noted that there is always a health risk to the woman who has too many children. “We know that fertility can relate to development because if families have fewer children per woman, then they have fewer mouths to feed. We can see at the family level that having fewer mouths to feed could help to reduce poverty and free more money to educate or help each child. And many analysts, including UNFPA analysts, have done research that shows slower population growth also reduces poverty at the national level.”
In his argument, Ladipo said Nigeria could endeavor to meet its National Policy on Population and Sustainable Development, NPPSD, targets and to help Nigerian families that already want to use modern contraceptives, which would increase the nation’s modern contraceptive prevalence rate, CPR.
“Fertility affects health mainly because certain types of births are exceptionally risky. ‘Risky births’ are defined as births that are too closely spaced, or when the mother is too young or too old, or when the mother has too many children. All of these could cause death or injury to the mother and child.
On challenges of family planning services in the country, he said 1 in 5 married Nigerian women has unmet need or child spacing methods or tools. “A woman expresses desire to space or limit births, but is not using any method to do so. This is more than six million couples who are not receiving services.
Lower fertility puts less strain on our healthcare system and health workers, including midwives. Under the Low Fertility Scenario, number of midwives required would increase more slowly.”