A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano State, Dr. Labaran Aliyu, has cautioned pregnant women against engaging in cultural practices that could be detrimental to their health and that of their unborn babies.
One of the cultural practices that should be avoided, he said, is the rubbing of cow dung on the vagina of a woman that is in labour, noting that this will not aid delivery, but rather could expose the woman to risk of infection and tetanus.
Aliyu also stated that some pregnant women are equally forbidden from eating certain foods that would aid the growth and development of their babies with the erroneous belief that they will affect their babies when they are born.
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, the gynaecologist stated that these false cultural beliefs and practices contribute to Nigeria’s worrisome maternal mortality rate.
A recent WHO publication on the Strategies Toward Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality states that no country should have an MMR of 140/100,000 live births by 2030.
But the latest maternal mortality ratio of 512 per 100,000 live births, as contained in the National Demographic and Health Survey 2018, shows that Nigeria has a long way to go in meeting the global health target by 2030.
Aliyu, an Associate Professor, Obstetrician, and Gynaecologist, Bayero University, Kano, explained,” For example, the practice of putting cow dung in the vagina. In some communities in Kano State, some of them put it on their private part thinking that when the labour is problematic, it will allow the baby to come out.
“Remote communities still do that, thinking that when the labour is obstructed if they apply the cow dung, it will facilitate the delivery. Which is not correct. This exposes the women to the risk of infection and tetanus.”
Similarly, the gynaecologist pointed out that a lot of pregnant women in rural areas who suffer from eclampsia are fed with concoctions with the belief that eclampsia is a spiritual attack.
Eclampsia, according to an online portal, Medical News Today, is a condition that only occurs during pregnancy and causes seizures, usually late in the pregnancy, adding that the condition follows a high blood pressure disorder called preeclampsia.
The gynaecologist explained, “Again when a pregnant woman has eclampsia, they will prepare a concoction and feed the woman with the hope that it will relieve her. This is a bad practice actually.
“They feel that eclampsia is caused by an evil spirit. Because they believe it is caused by an evil spirit, they invite a native doctor to come and make incantation.
“The native doctor will come with a cane and start beating the woman, thinking that by beating the woman, the evil spirit will leave her.”
According to him, some of these practices do not allow the woman to even go for antenatal care.
“Without antenatal care, the problem cannot be detected and the woman will only come to the hospital when there is complication.
“The complication could result in the death of the woman and her baby and that is a big problem.
“The level of antenatal clinic attendance in Nigeria is less than 60 per cent,” he said.
Aliyu said that these cultural practices are leading to many avoidable maternal and child deaths in communities, adding that many pregnant women with such beliefs do not get the full benefits of antenatal care as their health-seeking behaviour and attitude are influenced by cultural beliefs.
Experts say the persistently high rate of maternal and child mortality in the country negates the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3.
Target 1 of the Sustainable Development Goal 3 aims to reduce the global maternal mortality rate to 70/100,000 live births by 2030.
Journal of Global Health Reports indicates that despite efforts targeted at addressing maternal deaths across national and sub-national levels, the maternal mortality ratio has remained high in Nigeria in the last two decades, with the country currently accounting for about 20 percent of global maternal deaths.
According to the World Health Organisation, the lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is one in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4900.
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