This post was written by Elman Nsinda, journalist and maternal health advocate, White Ribbon Alliance Uganda (nsindae (at ) gmail.com)
In Uganda, 17 women and 106 newborns die every day due to complications related to pregnancy and child birth. Unfortunately, the causes of these deaths are clearly known and could be averted if each of the parties responsible played their part. The causes of death include: Severe bleeding, sepsis, obstructed labor, Hypertensive Disorders among others, exacerbated by delays at both community and at facility levels.
Pregnancy comes as a result of a moment of enjoyment by a couple; man and woman. This means therefore that the two are equally responsible for the outcome and the results whether negative or positive, should be equally shared by the two. The death of a woman as result of complications related to pregnancy and child birth, leaving the husband to remarry, will justifiably show injustice to the woman.
I am a father of two, and during pregnancy for the two children, I provided good food for the mother’s nutrition, planned transport to take her to the health facility and accompanied her to hospital for antenatal care and delivery for both of our children. I also saved money to plan for emergencies.
During this process, I witnessed mothers lying on the floor, midwives backing at women, delays and other ill treatment. Mine did not face any of those because it was me leading the way for her. We were given priority because I was around; other women without husbands accompanying them were looking on when we were by-passing them!
The experience gave me a sense of being an active participant in my wife’s pregnancy and birth. My wife also felt safe and cared for. No wonder why she delivered normally to healthy, thriving babies.
In Uganda, it’s known that every pregnant woman with a husband accompanying her is catered for fast. In fact, some women who can afford to hire other men to accompany them, do so in order to get first priority and good health care. Reports show that after women become pregnant, many men keep watching as the pregnancy gestation matures, claiming ownership but doing nothing to support the woman go through the process safely to have a healthy thriving baby! As we encourage men to take more active roles as fathers during pregnancy and childbirth, we also need to strive to change the social norms that place women in a position where they need to be accompanied by men to receive proper healthcare and treatment.
In sub-Saharan Africa, pregnancy and childbirth is looked at as a responsibility of the woman. Therefore, it is rare to see men accompany women to antenatal care and be present at delivery. When they see fellow men doing it, they consider them to be idle, perhaps unemployed and having a lot of extra time. Even with positive examples they miss, and abdicate their responsibilities.
But men can have a tremendously important role during pregnancy and childbirth for example through proving good nutrition to the pregnant woman, responding to complications, seeking medical help, paying for transport, and providing household needs. Birth preparedness! However, these roles are often overlooked and neglected. Almost all causes of maternal deaths are preventable. By taking more active roles as partners and fathers, men could do their part in preventing unnecessary maternal and newborn deaths in countries like Uganda.
In many nations, men also still make most decisions about family planning, such as when to have a child, how many children are to be born, where to give birth from (home or facility), among other vital decisions. We need to work towards changing this, and ensuring that women have control over their own reproductive decisions and their bodies – and decisions about children are made jointly by men and women, as equal partners and parents.
It’s the responsibility of all of us – you and me – to raise awareness about these critical roles in our societies so that men can understand how important their active participation is and play their part in helping women receive the quality care they deserve. Through this, men can help women ultimately survive childbirth, thrive as women and mothers and transform their lives and the lives of their families. This will remarkably impact on maternal health indicators and eventually contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Goals, because healthy mothers make for a healthy world.
A journalist and advocate for women’s and children’s health and rights, Elman Nsinda has been involved in safe motherhood advocacy campaigns across the Uganda to ensure that needless deaths of mothers and newborns are prevented. Elman is a trained White Ribbon Alliance citizen journalist and volunteer.
Featured image: A couple after birth of their child at Barr Health Center in Lira district, northern Uganda. The midwives at the health center encourage pregnant women to go with their husbands for ANC and delivery. Photo by Denis Okwir/WRA Citizen Journalist.