It’s no longer news that Nigeria has a high rate of maternal mortality and this high rate is second to India in the world according to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) records. Studies have shown that there are a lot of social, cultural and medical factors associated to maternal deaths. Research has shown that the major medical factors associated with maternal mortality in Nigeria are: Hemorrhage, eclampsia, obstructed labor, sepsis, complications of abortion amongst others while some of the social factors include delay in seeking medical care, non-accessibility to health facilities, high cost of medical services, poor quality care, ignorance etc.
A pregnant woman is a healthy individual prone to a lot of medical conditions associated with pregnancy. However, the health problems can be spotted and treated before they turn to serious pregnancy complications if proper medical care is sought early during pregnancy, thus seeking antenatal care early is key to positive pregnancy outcome. Obstetricians have advised that a woman should register and begin antenatal visits as soon as she confirms she is pregnant to enable proper follow up on the pregnancy to the point of delivery.
It is a common practice in Nigeria for pregnant women to attend antenatal clinic alone (without their husbands) and it’s common knowledge that men perceive antenatal clinic as women’s issue; maybe because of some of the activities included in the antenatal clinic (singing, dancing, exercise), busy schedule, or maybe they don’t know they can also attend.
Men involvement in the antenatal care of their pregnant wives can contribute to reducing maternal and perinatal deaths. How? A man/husband that is knowledgeable of the danger signs of pregnancy will look out for the wife/ woman and make meaningful birth preparations towards delivery. A man that is aware that headache is not a good sign in pregnancy would not ignore his wife when she complains of headache but will rather take her to the nearest health center to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. A man involved in the antenatal care of the wife will understand the importance of good nutrition and balanced diet, thus will not refer to the wife as long throat. The man will comply with doctors advice on “bed rest” if need be and not tag the wife as “lazy”, the man will understand that the wife needs to place her feet on the pillow while asleep to avoid swollen feet; he will understand that she spends money for laboratory tests and multivitamin drugs at the hospital and not to buy egg roll during her visit, he will know that the woman may be at risk of complications and she’s not deliberately denying him sex; the man will also be aware of the need to be cautious on suckling his pregnant wife’s breast not to trigger labor that may result to preterm delivery.
The Women’s Health and Action Research Centre, a leading NGO in Nigeria has initiated “Couple Monthly Antenatal and Postnatal Health Talk” in Central Hospital Benin City and Jumai Aliu Babangida Maternal and Neonatal Hospital Minna in December 2017, this initiative is to increase men involvement and positive attitude in antenatal and post natal care through sensitization and awareness creation. The outcome of this initiative has been very insightful and women have shown great excitement at the involvement of their partners in antenatal visits.
Considering the gains of this initiative, Health facilities should embrace this initiative of involving men in antenatal care to address the issue of high maternal mortality in Nigeria.