Healthcare workers, particularly midwives and antenatal nurses have advised expectant mothers to heed their antenatal visit routines as stated by their respective antenatal care doctors at the various health facilities instead of using herbal medicines and delivering under traditional birth attendants.
Pregnant women who opt for local herbs instead of antenatal care visits risk their lives and those of the unborn babies, Apio Lillian, a midwife at the Antenatal Clinic in Budaka HC IV warned.
In 2016, research on the ‘Prevalence and factors associated with use of herbal medicines during pregnancy among women attending postnatal clinics in Gulu district, Northern Uganda’ highlights alarming numbers of expectant mothers who chose to use local herbs instead of going for antenatal examinations and treatment at healthcare facilities.
Majority of patients in Gulu district, the research report indicated, including pregnant women, are suspected to use traditional herbal medicines for a number of ailments, but the actual burden of use of herbal medicines by women during pregnancy is still unknown.
Herbal medicines, in this case, are defined as plant-derived material and preparations perceived to have therapeutic benefits, containing raw or processed ingredients from one or more plants, and include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations, and finished herbal products that contain parts of plants or other plant materials as actual ingredients.
The report further indicates that relying on herbal medicines during pregnancy instead of scientifically proven treatment can have serious consequences, suggested to include fetal distress and premature deliveries, intrauterine growth restriction and decreased fetal survival, and congenital malformations, among others.
Herbal medicine use among pregnant women in Budaka
While in the queue awaiting medical attention at Budaka Health Centre IV in Budaka Sub region, women shared their experiences and knowledge on using local herbs while pregnant.
Mariam Kisakye, 23, who is expecting her sixth child, had come for her fourth antenatal visit.
She revealed that some ladies in her community rely on and prefer local herbs instead of going for antenatal visits in the health facilities.
“I have ever heard about herbs that pregnant women use while pregnant; like those one can sit in and the ones that increase contractions during child delivery,” Kisakye said.
She admitted to have used some herbs before during child delivery.
She, however, encouraged pregnant mothers to go for antenatal care services in health facilities.
“Pregnant mothers should come and attend their appointed days so that they can complete all the tests and treatments for a safe delivery,” she advised.
Fatina Kadondi, 20, said that she walks from Kibaale I (Budaka) to Budaka Health Centre IV to receive antenatal care.
“I was advised by elder mothers to come for antenatal care,” she revealed.
Among other tests, she noted, doctors check for the pressure, body weight, malaria and HIV/AIDS in addition to equipping the mothers with dietary facts and feeding advice.
“Using herbal medicines is not good. You may get complications during pregnancy,” Kadondi said.
Apio further noted that consuming herbal medicines during labour or opting deliver under a traditional birth attendant poses health risks for both the mother and the baby.
“Sometimes when its mature labour and pregnant women decide to go to the traditional birth labour attendants; they can deliver babies who are tired and get infections. At times they end up having complicated deliveries and at the end of the day, they will send them back to the hospital when it’s too late,” she explained.
Apio therefore advised pregnant women to complete all the antenatal care visits and deliver in health facilities to avoid such cases.