A Lagos-based paediatrician, Dr. Laolu Moronkola, says that lack of access to specialised care for pregnant women is fuelling the increasing incidence of maternal and neonatal mortalities in the country.
According to Moronkola, efforts to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality should now include expanding access to specialised care for pregnant women who may need it during pregnancy and childbirth.
Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise in an interview, Dr. Moronkola said one of the specialised areas of care that pregnant women lack access to was a caesarian section, noting that the high cost of the procedure in government and private hospitals discourage many people in the low economic class from considering and using it, even when it is a necessary option for deliver safely.
According to the World Health Organisation, good specialised care during pregnancy is important for the health of the mother and the development of the unborn baby
The global health agency also stated that an estimated 25 percent of maternal deaths occur during pregnancy, with variability between countries.
“Preventing problems for mothers and babies depends on an operational continuum of care with accessible, high-quality care before and during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal period. It also depends on the support available to help pregnant women reach services, particularly when complications occur,” WHO stated.
Dr. Moronkola said more needs to be done to improve antenatal and quality care during childbirth to reduce maternal and neonatal mortalities, adding that access to cesarean section for women who need one has always been a challenge because of cost.
“Just like every aspect of healthcare, there is inadequate and inequitable access to CS in Nigeria.
“Reasons for lack of access to this important care include poverty, lack of expertise and inadequate health facilities to provide the service.
“Nigerians, generally, pay out of pocket to access healthcare. It costs at least N100,000 [$248.33] to do a CS in Lagos.
“The government hospitals also charge about this same amount, along with other fees, therefore, discouraging the people of low economic class.
“Brain drain is also a problem. We now have very few doctors to attend to the basic health needs of the people not to talk of important specialised care and surgery,” she said.
The paediatrician noted that lack of political will to address the problems is one of the reasons the challenges persist.
He urged the government to address the problem of inadequate health facilities that can provide the required care for pregnant women, particularly at the grassroots.
He said, “Of course, there is increased maternal and neonatal mortality in the country.
“Maternal mortality should be addressed because the loss of a mother destabilises a family and the nation at large.
“The children left behind are also more likely to suffer from neglect, child labour, be at risk of rape and unwanted pregnancies, poverty and may also end up dying in the process of childbirth due to lack of specialised care. So, the vicious circle continues”.
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