First Lady Jeannette Kagame has emphasized the need to improve healthcare services given to women, saying that it was important to ensure that no woman dies while giving birth.
She was addressing the Congress of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, a global organisation working to improve the health and wellbeing of women and newborns.
Mrs. Kagame challenged professionals, some meeting virtually and others in Kigali, to always ask themselves whether women are indeed getting the best healthcare services.
"In your quest to provide the best possible and secure environment for a woman to give life, is she and her baby always being offered with the best possible physical and emotional environment?" she asked participants.
Deliveries attended by a skilled health care provider have steadily increased over the last decade, with currently 91 per cent of women giving birth in a health facility, and the same percentage assisted by a skilled provider.
The First Lady admitted that many women who give birth owe their lives and those of their babies to the skills of medics and midwives.
However, she insisted that labour and birth can produce significant pain requiring appropriate pain management, saying a woman therefore should be able to create a pain plan early on.
She also argued that how a woman wants to deal with childbirth pain is an important decision.
"Her interaction with an obstetrician and anesthesiologist should be encouraged, no matter where she gives birth, so they can talk about options and provide recommendations," the First Lady noted.
Pain relief during labour, she added, should not be seen as a failure rather it is available to reduce maternal distress and enhance the progress of labour, as most women wish they had some degree of relief during that intense moment.
Mrs. Kagame indicated that improvements in ensuring the best quality of care for a mother to deliver should also prioritise humanising maternity care and the expansion of birth options.
At the same time, midwifery-led care for women of all risk should be prioritised.
The Congress, the second to be held in Africa, brought together obstetricians, gynaecologists, midwives, nurses and other specialists in the field of women's health.
"Your professions are nothing short of demanding, it is a career requiring intense schooling, constant training and chaotic schedules, not to mention a heavy dose of tenacity and patience," the First Lady said.
By putting women's health first and at the centre of work, Mrs. Kagame highlighted that it was possible to be more effective to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths.
Over the next two days, the congress will deliberate on the situation of women's health, bringing together obstetricians, gynaecologists, midwives, nurses and other specialists in the field of women's health.
The congress is happening at a time the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the whole world, affecting many activities in almost every sector including how certain healthcare services are provided.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged many lives across the world, but we must seize this opportunity to restructure and remodel healthcare delivery that surpasses fear but fosters resilience and embraces digital technology," Dr. Anne Kihara, the President of African Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist (AFOG).
According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the world already faces substantial challenges to offering quality services for sexual reproductive, maternal and newborn care.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation worse," he said in a virtual address. "In many countries, access to sexual reproductive and maternal health has been disrupted."
At the same time, healthcare workers are facing struggles in their practice to care for women and their babies.