Pregnant mothers shy away from antenatal service in Lira
BY ISAAC OTWII
LIRA, UGANDA – Health authorities at Amach health center IV in Amach Sub-county, Lira District in Uganda have decried low attendance of antenatal care services by secondary pregnant mothers.
Jennifer Atim, a health worker at Amach Health center IV said women experiencing second pregnancy tend to devalue antenatal care services at the health facilities.
“Out of 324 women that came for antenatal services at the facility in February, only 17 followed the required standard by the government; (whereas) every woman is required to come for antenatal care services after every three month,” she said.
Atim also revealed that “Some of the women I interacted with said their husbands do not want to bring them to the health facility while those with second or third pregnancy do not consider going for an antenatal visit since they have previous experience of delivery.”
Antenatal care services are provided at health facilities that also provide a variety of general and primary health-care services to the community. These include care for HIV, TB, preeclampsia and lifestyle diseases.
Mr Atim said they have been educating pregnant mothers visiting the health facility on the benefits of routine antenatal visits.
“The VHTs, churches, and cultural leaders should mobilise women to visit the facility so that we can protect our mothers from dying of pregnancy,” she noted.
Dr Isaac Orec, the Doctor in charge of Amach health center IV said many women fail to or visit antenatal care clinics late because they discover they are pregnant late into their pregnancies.
“Some of them, mostly men, have fear of testing HIV positive and the associated stigma and cultural beliefs that they may be bewitched by jealous neighbours or friends,”
Robert Offiti, the Northern Uganda regional manager at Coalition for Health promotion and social development said they are partnering with the local community, leaders and health workers to make citizens responsible for their health.
“Our key area is in health quality advocacy and we do that by empowering the community in health rights. It is the responsibility of citizens to practice healthy behaviors, to be responsible for their own health,”
“Pregnant mothers must always go for antenatal services. One of the threats to human health in pregnancy that we must recognise is preeclampsia and we need to fight it by encouraging antenatal care services,” he said.
In Uganda, 97 percent of women who gave birth in the five years preceding the Uganda Demographic Health Survey (UDHS 2016) received antenatal care from a skilled provider at least once for their last birth.
Typically, antenatal care should begin two months into the pregnancy and a woman should attend at least four visits in the company of her spouse. However, according to Unicef, globally 85 percent of pregnant women access antenatal care at least once and only 58 percent get the recommended visits.
In Lango Sub-region, only 60 percent of women attend antenatal care in the first trimester. In Lira district, antenatal care attendance within the first trimester is at 50 percent, (RHITES Lango 2018)
Statistics in Erute South Sub-health District are not different. Only 17 of the 327 women followed the required standard of antenatal care visit.
Dr Orec says the struggle in managing preeclampsia in pregnant mothers visiting the health facility is facing setback from both lack of machines, drug stock outs, and cultural beliefs of witchcraft.
“In most cases the blood Pressure machines lack batteries and therefore many mothers go without having their pressure measured. There is also frequent stock out of essential drugs such as magnesium sulfate that complicates management of the condition,” Dr Orec said.
Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It affects both the mother and the unborn baby.