Maternal health its a couples issue

In 2012 two thirds of births in Kenya’s Makueni county were delivered without skilled supervision. In a recent study published by the BMC journal, Amref Health Africa’s Anne Gitimu and her team explore the role of education in increasing access to antenatal care and support.

Anne Gitimu project manager

Anne Gitimu, Project Manager & mother supported by Community Unit

Giving birth in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do. Here, one in 39 women will die as a result of childbirth or pregnancy, compared to one in 4,600 in the UK.  It’s a dark contrast that shows us just how many of these deaths could be prevented.

It is widely known that preventing maternal deaths depends significantly on the presence of a skilled birth attendant at delivery. Yet, in Kenya national statistics show less than half of all births to have been attended by a skilled professional. A fact that hasn’t changed for 10 years. It prompts the question: why?

In search of an answer, Anne Gitimu and her team conducted a secondary analysis of baseline data collected as part of Amref Health Africa’s Mama na Mtoto wa Afrika (Mother and Child of Africa), a Comic Relief funded project in the Makueni county of Kenya. The study, published on February 13th in the BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Journal looks closely at socio-economic factors as key determinants in precipitating health seeking behaviour.

In 2012, just 40% of births in Kenya’s Makeuni country were attended by a skilled professional.

Key findings from the study show us that a mother’s level of education is a pivotal factor in making the decision to seek skilled attendance at birth. A woman that has completed secondary education is four times more likely to use a skilled birth attendant, when compared to those with no education at all. Interestingly, the study also shows the partner’s level of education to be equally important – highlighting the work closely with both women and men. Reproductive health is a couples issue.

Amref Health Africa recognises this need to take an equal community-based approach as a part of the drive to increase skilled attendance at birth. Following the baseline survey discussed, Mama na Mtoto wa Afrika launched in 2012 and as we pass the halfway mark our teams are working hard to put the health of mothers and children back in the hands of the community.

As part of its delivery this project focussed on the education of men as well as women. To do this health workers and local community groups worked closely with women’s partners during home visits, and also targeted varied events from sporting events, to father-to-father clubs.

By 2014, over 70% of women in the districts of Makueni where the project takes place  reported delivering their baby with the help of a skilled attendant. Now that’s a change worth shouting about.