Health & Fitness

Kenyan insurance firms warm up to home deliveries

A delivery room at Eves Mama birthing centre on Ngong Road. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
A delivery room at Eves Mama birthing centre on Ngong Road. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

When Joy Marita was planning to have a third child she knew that just like her previous pregnancies she would visit the same hospital and the same gynaecologist would assist her during delivery.

But this time round she got wind, from one of her friends, of a midwife who was holding Lamaze classes and decided to attend for the fun of it.

In essence Lamaze classes, named after French obstetrician Dr Fernand Lamaze, increase a mother’s confidence and ability to give birth through learning how to cope with pain and promote comfort, including ways of relaxing, movement and massage.

“I enjoyed the classes and when she talked of a home birth, I got more interested, went to a home-birthing centre and immediately knew that it was what I wanted to do,’’ says Ms Marita.

The society is slowly accepting home births. For long the narative has been that giving birth outside the four walls of a hospital is calamitous.

To most modern Kenyan women the thought of giving birth at home is terrifying, but tide is slowly beginning to turn, largely because of experiences borne in local home birth centres.

The testimonials from mothers who have used the centre have been encouraging, and now the insurance industry is warming up to the idea.

One such centre is Eves Mama on Ngong Road, set up to accommodate women who want to deliver their babies in a home-like environment.
It was established two years ago and is run by midwives.

Eve’s Mama is not listed under insurance service providers, making it necessary for its clients to pay directly and get reimbursed by insurance companies.

Ms Lucy Muchiri, founder of Eves Mama, says: “We advise clients who are insured to first contact their care managers to get approval and when they agree to reimburse them, then they can go ahead with delivering at the Eves Mama birth centre,” says Ms Muchiri.

She adds that having insurance companies endorse such products is a step towards providing personalised healthcare, which she says, is a lot cheaper than having it in hospitals.

“This gives clients another option other than going to hospitals which charge high delivery fees,” she says, adding that they only charge standard delivery fees.

Ms Muchiri says insurers such as Bupa, AAR, Jubilee, Heritage, Resolution Health and UAP are some of the insurance companies that have taken to the idea of home deliveries.

Jacquline Mutio, a business consultant at Resolution Insurance , says home deliveries have to be authorised by their care centre department which comprises nurses who must be present during delivery.

“A client can either choose to have a doctor from our list of medical consultants do the delivery or use their preferred doctor and we reimburse the cost of home delivery,” she said.

Eves Mama also performs births at an individual’s home if a client requests for that but it is not covered by most insurance companies.

“Currently only Resolution Health and other international companies reimburse deliveries done at an individual’s home by our midwives. Other insurance firms only agree to reimburse if the delivery is done at our birth centre,” observes Ms Muchiri.

At first insurance companies were hesitant to reimburse home delivery expenses citing risks involved when delivering at home, but the involvement of qualified midwives throughout the process has injected some confidence in the sector.

The Insurance Regulatory Authority (IRA) has authorised the firms to cover home deliveries, but only a few players in the industry have taken up the challenge.

Noella Mutanda, the IRA communication manager, says the decision to reimburse home deliveries is a corporate choice and this has to be agreed upon by both the client and the insurance companies and done by a professional in the right circumstances.

Besides covering home delivery, insurance firms are also offering additional personalised services such as Lamaze classes to pregnant women under the maternity cover.

Resolution Health is one such firm that is catering for the classes.

In her blog, TV presenter Janet Mbugua, writes of how her insurance service provider catered for her Lamaze classes during pregnancy which helped her learn a lot on what to expect during child birth.

Dr Elijah Matolo, the deputy manager Wellness & Provider Partnerships at Jubilee Insurance, says the product is yet to be discussed and approved.