Prenatal care is paramount for every pregnant woman. The health of the unborn and that of the mother depends entirely on prenatal care. Women who do not attend prenatal care are at risk of maternal deaths while babies are at risk of low birth weight. Prenatal care provides mothers with the right information on nutrition during pregnancy and also enables pregnant mothers to keep track of the baby’s development and to correct any possible situation that might risk the life of the mother or that of the baby during delivery. In some countries, such as Rwanda and Swaziland, almost all pregnant women are seen at least once during their pregnancy by a physician.
Contributing Factors to Prenatal Care Accessibility
Prenatal care is particularly high in Rwanda, Swaziland, and Sierra Leon because of the awareness created by the government agencies and the ministries of health in these countries. Communities have been sensitized on health benefits and the dangers of not embracing prenatal care. Maternal health has also been given priority through an increased number of health workers, increased number of clinics, and reduced cost of prenatal care. With several mobile clinics, pregnant mothers now have access to health personnel. Therefore, they don’t have to walk long distances to access such facilities. Home visits by health officers, especially in rural areas of Liberia and Senegal, have also ensured that pregnant mothers receive medical attention at the comfort of their homes. Physically challenged expectant women have also benefited from such home visits. Increased household wealth, especially in Rwanda, has also played a key role. Some of the women who could not afford the cost of prenatal care in the past can now comfortably afford such prenatal services. Some of the prenatal clinics have come up with incentives such as HIV testing, blood tablets, and free delivery to encourage prenatal care.
Implications of Prenatal Care
High prenatal care has significantly reduced both maternal and infant mortality rates in most countries, especially in the developing world. With 99% of pregnant women having access to prenatal care In Rwanda, mortality has considerably decreased from 77 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 to 32 deaths per 1000 live births in 2015. Maternal mortality has also reduced by 77% within the same period. More high-risk pregnancies are now carried to term with safe delivery and live births of such high-risk pregnancies also increasing. Malnutrition and stunted growth in children have also reduced because prenatal care mothers have the right information on how to feed their babies. Breastfeeding has also been embraced by most women in these countries with high prenatal health care.
Countries such as Kenya, Malawi, the Republic of Sao Tome, Zambia, and Senegal are currently recorded as seeing over 95% of mothers receiving some degree of prenatal care. The high number of prenatal care has been pushed by the desire to meet the United Nations' Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal deaths and infant mortality. The government and international agencies have adopted campaigns in these countries to educate the population on the importance of prenatal care. Culture is no longer holding mothers back from accessing prenatal care, and in fact, communities are now embracing prenatal care and hospital deliveries.