While the WHO notes that an improvement in antenatal care has led to decreasing deaths during pregnancy in Southern Africa, there is still significant concern regarding the effective management of birth risks, from HIV to birth injury, among pregnant women. From the major risk factors to injuries that can result in lifelong disabilities like cerebral palsy, here’s how effective management of health during pregnancy can improve the odds of a healthy baby.
While programmes that prioritise the proper management of HIV in Southern Africa are considered to be global leaders, the prevalence of HIV still poses a significant risk to pregnant women. This is primarily because HIV can be transmitted to the baby during the pregnancy, at the delivery, and even through breast milk. However, the proper management of HIV during pregnancy and after the birth can aid in preventing transmission through what’s known as antiretroviral treatment (or ART), which aims to ensure that the mother has undetectable HIV viral load levels in her bloodstream.
To help mothers manage HIV during pregnancy, programmes such as Mothers2mothers work to guide women from pregnancy through to after birth by helping those who are HIV positive to get and stay on treatment. Additionally, other programmes, such as the one implemented in September of 2016, work to provide universal testing and treatment for HIV positive women, as well as free antiretroviral treatment, consequently contributing to the decrease in death among pregnant women.
Encountering a birth injury is another concern of pregnant women in Southern Africa, with common injuries including bruising, fractures and infection, as well as other serious conditions like cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is defined as a condition that involves impaired coordination and/or other disabilities, and while it can be caused by infection during pregnancy, premature birth, or even the failure to treat jaundice, it can also occur as a result of trauma during the birth.
The prevalence of cerebral palsy is certainly something to make note of, as according to a report on children with disabilities by the Uhambo Foundation, South Africa in particular has an abnormally high presence of cerebral palsy among children, with as many as 10 cases of CP occurring per 1,000 births. When it comes to preventing and properly managing cerebral palsy, there are a few options for expectant mothers. For instance, proper healthcare during pregnancy will help to prevent any infections and monitor overall health of both the mother and baby, and can aid in ensuring the best outcome in situations such as premature birth. Keeping an eye on the baby’s development is especially important, and can be done by taking a cerebral palsy quiz to check for developmental milestones. While not a diagnostic tool, this can help expectant mothers to gain insight into the child’s development.
Expectant mothers in Southern Africa often battle significant challenges, ranging from HIV to birth injuries, making pregnancy a daunting journey for many. However, by monitoring the pregnancy through regular health check ups and making use of resources that offer guidance and treatment for conditions like HIV, mothers can ensure their babies are as healthy as possible.