RECENTLY we carried a touching story headlined â€œPoor women dying silentlyâ€ of a young lady who, together with her baby, died in labour â€“ two deaths that could easily have been avoided.
Whilst the birth of a baby can be one of the most wonderful things that can happen in a womanâ€™s life, complications during pregnancy and at childbirth make the whole process dangerous.
Miscarriage has been the most common pregnancy complication as about 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage (loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks), and more than 80 per cent of miscarriages happen before 12 weeks.
Premature labor and birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy is another common problem that is not always so easy to solve.
Other problems include preeclampsia (when one has high blood pressure and protein in their urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy), oligohydramnios (when the amniotic sac with fluid that protects and supports the developing baby has too little fluid), gestational diabetes, ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus) et cetera.
For some people, the terms above are foreign because they have never happened to someone they know but these can happen to any pregnant woman.
It is easier to handle these issues and detect them before the problem arises but the detection is only possible if the expecting lady receives antenatal care from their local clinic or gynecologist.
Antenatal care (ANC) is a very critical stage of a mother and unborn babyâ€™s life. It can be the difference in whether they both make it through birth and for the child, it could be critical in as far as avoiding mother to child transmission of HIV.
As a result, urging pregnant women to attend antenatal care is of paramount importance.
In this light, reports that the percentage of women who are attending Antenatal care is still low are worrying especially as they clash with the achievements and dreams of one day having an HIV/Aids free generation.
When a pregnant woman goes into labour, her life â€“ and that of the unborn child â€“ is at risk.
Several complications can occur during labour and â€“ without qualified medical personnel at hand or with delays in rendering the needed care â€“ the result can be tragic.
Maternal mortality â€“ the deaths that occur during or following pregnancy â€“ rate in this country is uncomfortably high in comparison with other countries in the world because pregnant women are not getting antenatal care.
Pregnant women NEED regular medical and nursing care recommended during pregnancy that keeps a check on their blood pressure, HIV status, blood levels . . . and all the other factors that could threaten their lives or the lives of their unborn children.
Pregnancy-induced hypertension/eclampsia, post-partum hemorrhage and puerperal sepsis are the top direct causes of maternal deaths and they can all be avoided if pregnant women attend antenatal care.
According to the Zimbabwe Maternal and Perinatal Study of 2007, HIV and Aids is the leading indirect cause of maternal mortality contributing about 25 per cent and just like with pregnancy-induced hypertension/eclampsia, post-partum hemorrhage and puerperal sepsis, care must be taken to avoid mother-to-child transmission.
A lot of things will have to be done for the country to achieve the 96 per cent pregnant women attending ANC target any time soon.
The very idea of a mother giving birth at home â€“ assisted by some unqualified women as is the case many times â€“ is spine chilling.
Besides the aforementioned causes of martenal mortality, the unhygienic environment and utensils used on such women in labour make the whole process dangerous in unimaginable ways.
So the government â€“ and all the stakeholders concerned about the antenatal care process â€“ must look for the reasons why over 20 percent of pregnant women in Zimbabwe are giving birth at home.