11 June 2017

Ethiopia: Blood Test for Maternal and Child Health

"When I was in the family way, I never went to a health station. As a result, my two children died during delivery. Unluckily, to date I have not my own child whom I hug and kiss," says one of the women whom this writer approached for an interviewee at Gandi Memorial Hospital.

She goes by the name Mudina Awol. Previously, she had been living in Worabe town of Selti Zone. It was while she was a little girl she married. But she did not get a chance for a child. Once, discussing the issue, her family members decided to send Mudina to Addis Ababa assuming that she can get a better medical treatment. So, she went to the hospital for medical check up - to make the third trial effective.

Though Worabe is not in short supply of heath institutions, Mudina has not yet been aware of the significance of prenatal care. Often, with great sadness, she recounts what happened to her. As to her, during the delivery of her first child, she did not go to hospital but gave birth at home. And she was in labour starting from midnight. No result. Rather she lost strength. The next day, Mudina's families took her to a hospital. Though she gave birth to a child, he was stillborn.

Mudina got pregnant for the second time without wasting time to actualize her dream of having a child to hug and kiss and thereby fulfil the dreams of her husband and the family. She did not go to health stations. She spent all the nine months of her pregnancy without shunning health stations. Finally, she gave birth at home. Unfortunately, once again the newly born baby had not a chance to stay in life. She lost the second child too.

As a result, Mudina got ashamed of the community; even she started hiding herself from the society. Her relatives and family members felt pity for her. Taking the condition so far into account, her family members advised Mudina to have medical follow-up during pregnancy. She is now attending medical treatment in a nearby health institution to make her third trial successful.

"My delivery date is fast approaching. I have been making frequent medical follow ups. I did give my blood to physicians to check my HIV and AIDS status and other communicable diseases. I provided them with the ultra sound result of the child. And the medical doctors told me that there is no problem at all," she says.

Mudina simply had given her blood for a medical check up but she does not know about what types of examination she has to take. She has no inkling about the exact cause for the death of her two children. That is why this time she implored health officers to help her deliver and hug a baby of her own.

Betlehem Taye lives in Addis Ababa. She visited the Gandhi Memorial Hospital for medical follow-up to give birth to her third child and to know the health status of her would-be child.

This writer approached her about the examination she has been taking. "What types of examinations have you taken so far?"

She said, "This is not my first time. When I was pregnant two times, I had undergone series of medical follow-ups. And I did take all the necessary examinations, vaccinations and other medical treatments." Physicians took Betelehem's blood sample. She knew that her blood type is RH positive. Therefore, she is waiting her delivery to have and hug her newly born baby.

Betelehem said, "All pregnant women should know their blood type because it helps them when a problem arises during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are said to have RH negative might be exposed to accidental abortion. If these women do not get help during giving birth, their children won't have chance to stay in life. Hence, all pregnant women should take medical examination for their own benefit," she said.

Aster Yimam lives in Nefas Silike Lafto Sub-city. She is now pregnant for the second time. She is taking medical follow-up in Bole Sub-city, Woreda 17 Health Station. The writer intercepted her and posed some questions about what reasons initiated her to come to the health station.

"When I got pregnant, my husband and other people advised me to take a vaccination so that I can guard myself against communicable diseases. And I got information that vaccinations have been given in health stations. I accepted their advise and came here," she said.

First, she gave blood sample to health professionals for test. Her weight is being checked monthly. She did undergo a blood test for HIV and AIDS too. And she is optimistic that she could give birth without any difficulty. Aster did not know that she has to take another examination, after giving blood. And she hadn't taken any professional assistance in that regard. So, regarding RH she did not know what type of blood she has.

While she was living in the countryside she heard that pregnant women used to give birth at home. Such women usually face unexpected abortion. She said, "But I have never heard about such a tragedy since I have come to Addis. Surprisingly, I have never heard about RH positive or RH negative. Even I was not aware of whether I have to take medical examination," she noted.

If there is any problem that affects a woman's health and that of her conceived or if her blood type is RH negative, she guesses that she should have all the necessary follow up and advice. This is my imagination. Therefore, I hope I have no problem at all," she said.

Gandhi Hospital Health Officer and Communicable Disease and Health Advancement Sub-process Head Birhanu Betru seconds Betlehem's the idea. He said when a woman gets pregnant, she has to go to the nearby health station and take all the necessary medical examinations.

Mothers have to take all the necessary medical examination while they are pregnant. They have also to take advice about what they can or can't do during this period. Taking medical examination during pregnancy helps come up with healthy motherhood and foetus.

When pregnant women come to our hospital, the first thing we do is requesting them to fulfil all veritable things in relation to health. These includes various examinations. Blood tests helps concerned bodies identify women's blood type and pregnancy background. Most of the time, mothers that have RH negative blood type should not be advised to continue the pregnancy. So, medical examination helps them prevent such problems before hand.

He further indicated that if a mother happens to be RH positive, she would face multifaceted birth complications. He elaborated the issue as follows: unfortunately, the first child can be okay. But, the child to be born next will have no healthy life during and after birth. Most of the time, it is advised to be terminated or aborted."

He also said if a mother is RH negative and the husband is RH positive, and if the cells of these two are joined within a blood, a foetus is created developing anti-body reaction. This situation would destroy the next foetus in the womb. If such a situation happens to RH negative mother, she is advised to have anti medicine between two to three days or within 72 hours after giving birth. This helps her safely deliver the next child.

According to him, during pregnancy, the main concern of medical professionals is not only for the mother but also for the foetus. Therefore, if RH negative mothers face complications such as bleeding before vaccination, they can't take drugs, even if it is necessary. Therefore, during pregnancy, making blood test and identifying RH type has dual advantage.

Undergoing blood test during pregnancy has another benefit to mothers. For instance, it is important to examine whether the mother has contracted sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or not, he added. In addition, therapeutic and other heath examinations are under way to help mothers. If a mother is a victim of hepatitis for example, the examination would help her take medical treatment and vaccination which can halt diseases transmission particularly from mothers to children.

HIV and AIDS is an example in this regard. According to Birhanu, currently, a lot has been done to arrest the rapid speared of HIV and AIDS as well as levelling all possible transmission ways of HIV and AIDS. Mothers who live with the virus are now in a position to bear HIV free infants.

"If a mother is HIV positive and the case is known during her pregnancy, she has to take the necessary advice accompanied with medical treatments to protect the child from the virus. Women are encouraged to give anti HIV medicine to the newly born baby after delivery and attend the necessary follow up to get HIV free infants.

HIV virus is also transmitted through breastfeeding. Hence, if a mother is HIV positive, she has to visit health professionals to know which way she should choose to have a healthy child. Besides, the health professionals could provide her with advice to undergo other necessary urine and blood tests.

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