The Ministry of Health has today urged expectant mothers to attend regular antenatal visits as this will ensure good health of the unborn children and prevent preterm births.
This comes ahead of the World Prematurity Day which will be commemorated tomorrow in Kamuli district, internationally themed “Together for babies born too soon – Caring for the future.”
Dr Richard Mugahi, the Assistant Commissioner reproductive and infant health at Ministry of Health said that attending antenatal visits is one of the major ways of preventing maternal illnesses, preterm births and even maternal deaths as risks are identified earlier enough.
“We are recommending that all pregnant women should attend antenatal care visits for at least 4 visits and in every visit, a pregnant woman has a package of interventions; tests and medicines given. When she misses one of the visits, then she misses out on these packages,” Dr. Mugahi said.
He added that this greatly affects how the child is developing in the womb because the child ends up missing some of the essential supplements.
“It can cause complications and one of the complications is preterm (premature) babies. The baby won’t grow well and at the end of the day, it will come out before 37 weeks of gestation. So, as the ministry of health, we are sensitizing mothers about the importance of completing antenatal visits, taking their medicines, sleeping under mosquito nets and all the other interventions,” he said.
Mugahi noted that prematures contribute the highest percentage of babies who die before they complete 28 days.
“Premature babies have complications as they have problems in feeding, and maintaining body warmth and that’s why we recommend the Kangaroo mother care and they are meant to be in incubators. Infections affect them a lot,” he said.
Dr Charlse Olaro, the director of clinical services at the health ministry revealed that over 60% of preterm births occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
“In Uganda, approximately 226,000 of the born too soon babies each year and 12,500 children under five die due to direct preterm complications. This ranks Uganda 28th worldwide in preterm birth, estimated at 13.6% per 1000 live births,” Dr. Olaro said.
He added that preterm births are more likely to be among women living in rural areas, who don’t attend antenatal.
“Preterm can lead to cerebral palsy, impaired learning, vision problems, hearing problems, dental problems, behavioural and psychological problems, chronic health issues.”
He further noted that everyone has a role to play to encourage and support all pregnant mothers to attend timely ANC, have good nutrition and sleep under insecticide treated mosquito nets and deliver from heath facilities.