Maternity wards turn off women
Pregnant women are shunning giving birth in hospitals owing to mistreatment by healthworkers, writes KIUNDU WAWERU
When Rosemary Awuor gave birth to her first born, it was on the floor of the hospital.
The mother of five who resides in Korogocho recalls arriving in hospital in deep pain, but the mistreatment from the doctor in charge made the situation unbearable.
"I suspected I was in labour but the doctor surprised me when he said that I should go back home and do exercises, that my problem was that I was lazy," she says.
From then on, Rosemary decided never again to deliver in a hospital.
She is not alone as statistics show that out of about 1.5 million women who give birth annually, half deliver at home.
But what is now worrying besides the 21 women dying daily as a result of pregnancy —related complications is that at least 45,000 children are born HIV-positive every year.
This paints a grim picture on the Government’s effort to eliminate HIV among newborns through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).
Public Health Minister Beth Mugo had earlier this year said it was disturbing that women opted to deliver at home despite hospitals offering free services.
"We need to conduct a research to find out why women are not delivering in the hospital," said the Minister.
Indicators on the ground, as highlighted by personal stories and expert view, rubbish the progress of PMTCT programmes.
Indeed, the very health workers who are supposed to be encouraging women to deliver at the hospital are the same ones mishandling mothers.
This trend has seen more mothers seek the help of traditional birth attendants despite their inability to handle complications.
The mother interviewed by My Health reporter attests to having received ‘five-star’ treatment under the care of the traditional birth attendants as opposed to hospitals.
This situation has, therefore, complicated the efforts for the Government to effectively prevent newborns from contracting HIV.
Agnes Amagove, 50, is living with HIV and Aids has grown-up children.
She says her last born, aged eleven, is HIV positive. "He was my retirement child and like always, I did not visit the clinic while expecting him. He started falling ill and was tested HIV-positive at the age of two," Agnes says.
Agnes recalls how the only time she chose to give birth in a hospital, her only girl child died and she lost complete faith in hospitals.
Maureen Murenga of the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV and Aids in Kenya (Nephak) says stigma is the worst culprit.
Murenga has a HIV-positive child and says discrimination of people living with the virus in health facilities is also a big hindrance to pregnant women seeking care.
" Women living with HIV are discriminated against in hospitals and are forced to give birth unattended, sometimes on the floor," she says.
Such women, she says, will prefer to go to the TBAs who are more welcoming, not knowing that the health of their child will be compromised.
Maureen says this further puts the PMTCT programme further on the spot, which since 2004 has been offering "opt- out" HIV testing. meaning you cannot be forced to test.
She explains that pregnant women attending antenatal clinics can chose to be tested for HIV or not.
She further notes,"Some young pregnant women avoid the clinics as testing is mandatory and little counselling is done while some are even put on antiretroviral drugs without knowing what the medicine does."
Dr Nduku counters,"But we will never end paediatric Aids if we cannot prevent new infections against women."
Dr Nduku points out that unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV need to be prevented.
This, she says, is by increasing access to contraceptives so that they can choose when and how to get children.
This means that despite the intensive campaign, the goal to eradicate pediatric HIV among newborns by 2015 may not be achieved.
Currently, there are about 1.5 million Kenyans living with HIV and Aids.
About 100,000 new infections are reported annually meaning that at this rate, in the next five years, there will be an additional half a million people living with HIV and Aids.
Dr Kilonzo warns that Kenya is making two steps ahead and three steps backward by not ensuring that pregnant mothers don’t infect their children with the HIV virus.
Therefore, unless the attitude of health workers is improved in handling mothers, PMTCT will remain a great innovation on paper but not in practice.
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