“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad.” This damming verdict was made recently by Bill Gates, Philanthropist and Chairman Bill and Melinda Foundation.
With a good knowledge of where he was headed, Bill Gate did not waste time as he held the audience spellbound as he set in motion enduring legacies that are needed by the Nigerian government and stakeholders to mobilise and focus action to eliminate pregnancy related deaths in the country.
It is said that the arrival of new born babies are often greeted with fanfare, but where the unexpected happens, the mood in such homes are better imagined than felt. According to the World Health Organisation, maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death.
Since 1990 the world has seen a 44 per cent decline in the maternal death ratio – an enormous achievement. But in spite of these gains, recent data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show that every year some 287,000 women continue to lose their lives trying to give birth to others.
In a bid to mobilise and focus action on women’s wellbeing in aspects of maternal health and maternal mortality globally, public health experts at the just concluded maternal health meeting held in Brussels, Belgium, reeled out new alarming statistics.
It was widely reported that while global maternal mortality dropped by about 43 percent since 1990, Nigeria still ranked highest among sub-Saharan African nations with high maternal deaths. And worst still, according to the World Bank modelled estimate, 58,000 Nigerian women died in 2015 due to birth related complications.
From investigations the major causes of death in women of child-bearing age that push up the maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria include sepsis, obstetric haemorrhage/bleeding, unsafe abortion, obstructed labour and pre-eclempsia.
Other factors that are related include poverty, unorthodox beliefs and cultural practices including religion, ignorance, inappropriate nutrition and accessibility to good facility including good road or waterways transportation during emergencies.
Over the years, studies have shown that unplanned pregnancies in women of reproductive age (which is where family planning comes in) is also one of the major reasons of high MMR; because a woman that gets pregnant often does not have enough time to recuperate and she is not yet back to her normal physiological state, hence, there is higher risk of having complications in such pregnancy, and that is why family planning is very key in addressing MMR.
Maternal mortality rate according to experts is an indicator of the health care delivery system of a country. When the women are not very well looked after, there is going to be a vicious cycle with attendant huge problems in the society.
Going forward, it is noteworthy, that increasing efforts is needed by Government and other stakeholders in the country to meet Sustainable Development Goals in reducing global MMR to less than 70 per 100’000 live births by 2030 as recommended by the WHO.
Meanwhile, on the part of pregnant women themselves, it is important for them to take ante-natal care very seriously. Pregnant women should ensure that they follow instructions given to them by the health care practitioners. Lastly, they should make sure that they go for regular blood tests, expert say.