Pregnancy and childbirth related complications are still the leading causes of maternal deaths among many adolescent girls and young women in Uganda. However, these complications are preventable especially when women and girls have the right information and seek adequate care in time. For many girls especially the most poor and vulnerable, pregnancy and childbirth is in most cases not by choice but rather sexual violence or rights violation including; rape and other many forms of sexual abuse and harassment plus denial of Quality Sexual Reproductive Health Services like; contraception, safe abortion and Comprehensive Sexuality Education. As a result, the ability to seek adequate care is way limited due to the stigma and discrimination.

young mothers from around Katwe slum during a talk during the forum

Many pregnant adolescents and others engaged in childbirth suffer from severe bleeding (mostly bleeding after child birth), infections (usually after child birth), and high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia), complications from delivery and unsafe abortion. Many girls also suffer from complication related to infections such as malaria or related to chronic conditions like cardiac disease or diabetes. During the just concluded She Decides Young Mothers Forum held at the Ngabo Youth Friendly Service Centre in Katwe Ghettos of Makindye Kampala, young mothers sighted out poverty, long distance to health facilities, lack of information, inadequate and poor quality health services and cultural beliefs and practices, stigma and discrimination as well as lack of access to contraceptive services as some of the barriers that limit them from seeking care during and before pregnancy and child birth.

 

Patrick Mwesigye the Team Leader Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum noted that to improve maternal health needs for adolescent girls and young women, barriers that limit access to quality maternal health services must be identified and addressed at both system and societal levels. He also informed the girls that most maternal deaths are preventable, as the health care-care solutions to prevent and manage complications are well known. All women and girls need access to high quality care in pregnancy and during and after childbirth. Patrick called on all the girls to make sure that while pregnant, they go to the nearby health Centre for antenatal care and ensure that, at birth, they are attended to by a skilled health professional like a medical doctor or midwife. He also noted that timely management and detection of early warning signs of danger during pregnancy can make a difference and protect the mother and her child from deaths or major injuries. Sr. Sandra a midwife from Kawala Health Centre in Kampala took the girls through a session on understanding the main pregnancy and childbirth related complications and how each can be addressed. She noted that severe bleeding after birth can kill a healthy woman within hours if she is unattended but Injecting oxytocic’s immediately after childbirth effectively reduces the risk of bleeding. Infection after childbirth can be eliminated if good hygiene is practiced and if early signs of infection are recognized and treated in a timely manner.

a condom use demonstration for the youth and young mothers

Additionally she also noted that Pre-eclampsia should be detected and appropriately managed before the onset of convulsions (eclampsia) and other life-threatening complications. Administering drugs such as magnesium sulfate for pre-eclampsia can lower a woman’s risk of developing eclampsia. Further more she informed the young mothers that to avoid maternal deaths, it is also vital to prevent unwanted pregnancies and more so teenage pregnancies among adolescents.  All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care. Miss. Tamara Johnson the project coordinator of the Regional SRHR Fund Program under HIVOS in her remarks told the girls that Women and girls should be supported to exercise their right to freely making safe and informed choices and to Decides about their bodies, their life and their future.  She called on all the girls to be proud about who they are and hold their lives and bodies in high regard and high esteem and also freely decide to use contraceptives if there are not ready for pregnancy. The young Mothers Forums on safe motherhood are an interactive model that Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum used to reach our to vulnerable adolescent girls and young women who are either mothers, pregnant or at high risk of pregnancy. The forums are run under UYAHF’s #Youth4SafeMotherhood Campaign and target to raise awareness and enhance the knowledge base of these girls on the basic concepts of safe motherhood.

Compiled by UYAHF comms team. info@uyahf.com