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Antenatal clinic visits determine infant survival

Nyeri mums during a breastfeeding campaign. PHOTO | FILE
Nyeri mums during a breastfeeding campaign. PHOTO | FILE 

An infant whose mother did not attend an antenatal clinic is four times likely to die during the first month after birth compared to a child whose parent sought prenatal services four or more times.
An article titled The Effectiveness of antenatal care services in reducing neonatal mortality in Kenya: analysis of national survey data, published a month ago in the health journal, Global Health Action, also says children whose mothers got unskilled antenatal clinic (ANC) attendance had 3.5 times higher chances of dying than those under trained health providers.

The article was compiled by Malachi Arunda, a public health researcher based in Sweden, together with Anders Emmelin and Benedict Oppong Asamoah, a maternal and reproductive health specialist.

Further, the study says newborns whose mothers did not get the tetanus injection faced mortality rate twice higher than those born by mothers who received the vaccination.

“About 10 per cent of neonatal mortalities in Kenya could be attributable to lack of a single TT injection. Unskilled ANC assistance could account for nine per cent of neonatal deaths,” said the study, which analysed cross-sectional data from the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS).

The survey states that infant mortality rate is 39 in every 1,000 live births in Kenya.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends two ANC visits in the first two trimesters and two more during the last three months.

Each visit has a service package as recommended by WHO. The first one takes place within eight to 12 weeks, second at 24 and 26 weeks, the third at 32 weeks and fourth at 36 to 38 weeks.

The study says only 58 per cent of women in Kenya attend the four recommended ANC visits.

During the first ANC visit, expectant mothers are vaccinated against tetanus, given iron and folate supplements known to prevent a number of conditions including maternal anaemia, low birth weight which can in turn hinder a baby’s development, preterm births and spina bifida (where the spinal cord fails to develop completely in the womb).

Tetanus is a life-threatening bacterial disease caused by clostridium tetani which enters the body through an open wound.

The bacteria is known to affect the nervous system and is fatal when left untreated.

A vaccinated pregnant woman’s body forms antibodies which are later passed to the foetus, protecting them from the infection.

The health practitioner is able to give the mother the expected delivery date.

The following visits checks foetal growth, movements, mother’s anaemia and blood pressure levels.

The visit also involves lessons on postnatal care, infant feeding, birth and emergency plan.

ARV’s are also recommended to mothers carrying the HIV virus - they are also taught on the importance of the Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) during pregnancy and after.

This prevents mother to child transmission and ensures a child gets nourished from the mother’s milk.

Breast milk supports healthy brain development, decreases risk of contracting non-communicable diseases including childhood asthma, obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life.

The study recommend new strategies such as community ANC outreach programmes to supplement the regular antenatal visits.