Zanzibar — MOST maternal mortality cases in Zanzibar are a result of lack of safe family planning practices and deliveries fraught with danger, youths have been told.
"It is a fact that most birth complications and death risks on the part of pregnant women are due to unplanned pregnancies," said Dr Hanuni Waziri, an experienced midwife at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital.
Dr Waziri was opening a debate on 'family planning, a role for both male and women parents', which involved youths, including students. She advised women and men to practise family planning in a quest to minimize maternal morbidity and mortalities.
"Family planning also helps in poverty reduction because you raise a smaller family," Hanuni said, arguing that maternal mortality can be controlled if parents observe health precautions and follow the advice of medical doctors.
The youths, supported Dr Hanuni's explanation, saying that awareness campaigns for family planning initiatives should be intensified in order to save the lives of pregnant women, and also improve the welfare of families.
But the opposing side said that family planning was bad because it caused nasty side effects and that religion does not allow family planning. "Use of contraceptives such as birth control pills or hormone implants, are dangerous to the body," the opposing youths said.
But the health officer said that some people have wrong perceptions about contraception and that the practice is safe if used well. Meanwhile, birth attendants say that childbirth is more likely to be difficult and dangerous for an adolescent than for an adult.
Babies born to very young mothers are much more likely to die in the first year of life. Paediatricians determine that the younger the mother, the greater the risk to herself and her baby. Unfortunately, not many women know the risks involved in childbearing.
Young women and their families should be given information about the risks of early pregnancy and how to avoid them. Family members should also know that after the age of 35, the health risks of pregnancy and childbirth begin to increase again.
If a woman is over the age of 35 and has had four or more pregnancies, another pregnancy is a serious risk to her own health and that of the foetus. The risk of death for young children increases by nearly 50 per cent if the space between births is less than two years.
One of the greatest threats to the health and growth of a child under the age of two years is the birth of a new baby, paediatricians say. Breast-feeding for the older child stops too soon and the pregnant mother now has less time to prepare the special food her young child needs.
She may even fail to give the child the care and attention he or she needs. So the child remains neglected or even abandoned. As a result, children born less than two years apart usually do not develop properly -- physically or mentally. A woman's body needs two years to recover fully from pregnancy and childbirth.
The risk to the mother's health is therefore greater if births come too close together. The mother needs time to get her health, nutritional status and energy back before she becomes pregnant again. If a woman becomes pregnant before she is fully recovered from a previous pregnancy, there is a higher chance that her new baby will be born too early and weigh much less.
Babies born underweight are less likely to grow well and are more likely to become ill. In fact, according to paediatricians, they are four times more likely to die in the first year of life than babies of normal weight. A woman's body can easily become exhausted by repeated pregnancies.