Maternal Health

July 20, 2021

Maternal health has become a big challenge in Kenya and the whole of Africa in general. Accessibility to quality healthcare centers is a major issue which contributes to high maternal mortality rates in Kenya. Very few of the women deliver their babies in hospitals; the majority deliver their babies from home.  A huge number of women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.  Most of the maternal deaths occur in low-income homes. Young adolescence of ages 10-14 face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than other women.

So, when a student falls pregnant while still at school, the risk is ten times higher. The challenges are many, from poor diet to health complications. Adolescence mothers between 10-19 face higher risk of eclampsia than women aged 20-24 years. Stigma, violence by partners, rejection by parents and fellow students are some of the social and economic consequences of being an unmarried, pregnant adolescence. Girls who become pregnant before the age of 19 years are more likely to experience violence within a marriage or partnership. Adolescence pregnancy and childbearing often leads girls to drop out of school, although efforts are underway to allow them to return to school after childbirth.

We are still facing challenges in the schools where many teenage girls have fallen pregnant. Though this is a subject that has been addressed many times in the mentorship program, we seem to keep going back to the topic. Amongst the many questions we address during the question-and-answer sessions, pregnancy related questions always top the list. Many girls are pregnant in schools, and unfortunately the largest number is in Form 1 and 2 classes. These are girls who are barely 17 years of age. The stress and mental torture these girls face are immense. They suffer in silence because they fear the stigma that is associated with teenage pregnancy. Raising tuition fees is a huge burden for parents; dealing with a pregnant teen simply adds to the weight of their problems.

Schools must deal with pregnancies that they are not prepared or equipped to handle. When a student is seen in school uniform and pregnant it brings shame to the school. The teachers and parents are having a very hard time dealing with teenage pregnancies. The girls who fall pregnant while at school lose out on valuable time while they tend to the pregnancy and the baby after it is born. They are not able to attend antenatal care, and so if there is a complication with the pregnancy it may not be detected in time.

The girls face many challenges when the time for delivery comes. Those that live in the slums have to deal with very dire situations raising their babies. The number of people living in the slums is overwhelming and medical facilities are scarce. The maternity hospitals do not have facilities for admitting the mothers when they go to deliver their babies. They strictly keep the mothers for a few hours after delivery and ask them to go and recuperate from home. They do not attend to caesarian births and God forbid if an emergency was to happen. Many mothers have lost their lives or those of their babies as their relatives tried to move them to the bigger hospitals when an emergency occurred during child delivery. There are no ambulances to cater to these mothers, so a taxi has to be hired to transport them when need be.

School principals are begging for support for the girls at their schools. Each time there is a pregnancy check at the schools, they are very tense waiting to hear the results, most of the time the numbers are very concerning. Calling a parent to school and breaking the news of a pregnancy is heart breaking to both the teacher and the parent. There are situations where a parent tells their daughter not to go home when schools close, they feel let down and do not want to deal with the pregnant teen. The teacher is left stranded with the student not knowing what to do or how to handle the situation. This can lead to some of these students procuring unsafe abortions which endanger their lives.

We are doing our best to address teenage pregnancies at the schools. Whichever topic we may be covering for the month, we always speak about the need for the girls to be responsible and avoid relationships while still at school because that is how they get compromised.

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