The anticipation of pregnancy is a joyous experience for every woman, symbolizing a divine blessing. However, in our society, a significant percentage of pregnancies encounter complications leading to adverse outcomes, including maternal mortality. Despite government efforts to address maternal deaths nationally and sub-nationally, Nigeria continues to bear a high burden, contributing to approximately 20% of global maternal deaths over the last two decades. Akwa Ibom, too, faces this alarming challenge.
In response to this critical issue, Her Excellency, Dr Martha Udom Emmanuel, wife of former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and founder of FEYReP, took proactive measures to confront maternal mortality. In 2018 she initiated Martha’s Pregnacare, a comprehensive program aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle among pregnant women. The program also focuses on raising awareness about harmful traditional practices during pregnancy, childbirth, and beyond.
Now with 12 editions, Martha’s Pregnacare has made a significant impact, benefiting over 3000 pregnant women, the majority hailing from rural communities where traditional birth attendants traditionally held influence. This initiative has successfully encouraged rural pregnant women to adopt clinical delivery methods. Collaborating with the Nigerian Medical Women Association, the program engages medical professionals to educate and sensitize women on pregnancy myths and facts.
Dr. Martha underscores the significance of this strategy thus, “Launching this outreach was vital to educate and support expectant mothers in managing the challenges of pregnancy. It is crucial to seek consistent medical attention throughout pregnancy. While appreciating the role of traditional birth attendants, my apprehension is focused on the delivery procedures in those contexts, where preventable cases of deaths and transmission of deadly diseases have been observed”.
The outreach serves as a platform for maternity services, offering free medical check-ups, teachings on hygiene and dietary guidelines during pregnancy, and presentations by medical personnel. Expectant mothers like Mrs. Blessing Uyimeobong from Itu local government express their gratitude, saying, “I appreciate FEYReP for this educative platform that has provided us with important knowledge on topics such as the Role of Nutrition and Child Delivery, Ante-natal and Postnatal Delivery Challenges, and Cleanliness is Next to Godliness: Hygiene in Pregnancy.”
For Dr. Idoreyin Ekanem, the Coordinator of FEYReP, Martha's Pregnacare represents a holistic effort to reduce infant morbidity and maternal mortality in the state. "This program addresses pregnancy-related issues, such as cesarean section, hygiene, and diet, while also discouraging traditional birth delivery methods that have contributed significantly to childbirth-related deaths."
The initiative stands as a beacon of hope for a healthier future for mothers and infants in Akwa Ibom State.
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