Only 65% of women globally received antenatal care four or more times during their pregnancy, according to a revised antenatal care report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) released on Monday. In the revised guidelines, the WHO recommends that pregnant women schedule eight prenatal check-ups as opposed to the previously recommended four. This is to help reduce the global rate of SIDS and birth complications.
South Africa has extremely high mortality levels compared to developed countries and even other developing countries. In the WHO estimates for 2015, 138 women per 100 000 live births in South Africa died due to pregnancy- and childbirth-related reasons.
The importance of antenatal care
On average, pregnant women in South Africa visit antenatal clinics for almost the minimum number of four times as previously recommended by the WHO. However, many women who attend antenatal care for the first time in their pregnancies go to the clinics too late.
In an article by Dr Anja Smith, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, research from different parts of South Africa shows that pregnant women may visit clinics late, because only a limited number of women can be accommodated on any given day, or they go to the clinics but are not treated with dignity or provided appropriate services, making it difficult for them to see value in pregnancy care.
“Antenatal care for first-time mothers is key. This will determine how they use antenatal care in future pregnancies. More, and better, contact between women and their health providers throughout pregnancy will facilitate the uptake of preventative measures, timely detection of risks, reduce complications and address health inequalities,” says the WHO head of maternal health, Anthony Costello, in a statement.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day.