By Rukaiyatu Idris
It was noon and the benches at the waiting area of General Hospital Biu were still filled up with pregnant women who had come for their routine checks.
It is not unusual to have such a gathering being noisy as women exchange pleasantries or engage in chit chat and little gossip while they paid half attention to the nursing officer who would intermittently call out “next! “
At the end of the bench on the back row sat a woman in her mid-30s who appeared disconnected from the noisy ambience of her female colleagues.
A cursory look at Hadiza Umoru’s face betrays the encasement of pain and silent misery.
Ms Hadiza said her depressing looks had nothing to do with any medical condition.
“I am just tired of having come a long distance to attend this antenatal session,” she said in her local language.
Mrs Hadiza is one of the women who had to travel at least 14km from her village, Dalwa, in the Shani local government area, paying at least N600 on local transport, to attend medical service at the clinic in Biu.
Mrs Hadiza who spoke to The Humanitarian Times at General Hospital in Biu said that she started attending antenatal in the seventh month of her pregnancy because they don’t have a functional clinic in the Dalwa community in Shani LGA.
Health experts have advised that it is good and safe for a woman to start her antenatal care as soon as pregnancy is confirmed.
Hadiza said due to delays in her attending antenatal care she had lost most of her pregnancy.
“I lost my ninth baby in the early months of 2021. And just recently, five days ago, I lost the tenth one with the same complication of bleeding,” she said.
Another woman who spoke to The Humanitarian Times at the Biu General Hospital, Fatima Usman, said she recently lost her eighth baby at the post-natal care unit at general hospital Biu.
Mrs Usman blamed her predicament on her inability to attend the antenatal care early enough due to financial constraints that made it uneasy for her to pay for her transportation to the clinic.
“In my last session, I was brought to the hospital unconscious and I had to undergo a cesarean section (CS) to evacuate the baby that died in my womb because I had laboured for too long hoping to be delivered at home. “
Rahab Bala said she lost her second baby as a result of bleeding during the delivery.
She attributed the cause of her ordeal to her irregular antenatal care.
“I attended antenatal care only once throughout my pregnancy without any reason,” she said.
However, despite the pathetic stories of other women that spoke with The Humanitarian Times, at the general hospital, Hauwa Ali, reveals that on-time antenatal care had saved her life and that of her baby.
“I started attending antenatal at the third month of my pregnancy, and on the second time of being at the antenatal, nurses diagnosed that I was having an infection which they said if not treated properly can lead to having a stillbirth.”
The ease at which one encounters pregnant women and mothers with cases of mortality and morbidity on their medical records underscored the magnitude of the problem on a larger scale in the Biu axis.
Health workers speak.
Medical experts who spoke to The Humanitarian Times believe that most of the complications women experience before or after childbirth can be preventable during antenatal care.
According to Malama Kulu Usman, the Nursing Officer, in charat ge of antenatal care at the Biu Primary Health Care Department, “the basic objectives of antenatal care are to examine and advise pregnant women on how to manage their pregnancy, spot pot problems, and to provide solutions to the problems”.
Mrs Usman added that “identifiable yet preventable problems that pregnant women can encounter during pregnancy or childbirth include Antepartum Hemorrhage (APH), Anemia, Eclampsia, Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) among other complications.
Similarly, the Chief Nursing Officer, Antenatal Care Unit, General Hospital, Rhoda Anjili, said that most of the complications women encounter at childbirth are preventable, but due to negligence in having early antenatal care, the problems grow and become complicated.
Still, on the same line of thought, the Chief Nursing Officer, Postnatal Care Unit, General Hospital Biu, Borno, Faith David, emphasised that timely antenatal care can avert related complications at childbirth.
“Throughout my service at the general hospital, I have never received a genuine reason on what is stopping women from attending antenatal care. Women are expected to visit the hospital once they realize that they are pregnant for good management of the pregnancy,” she said.
She further disclosed that the State government has charged health workers to enlighten women on the benefits of antenatal care, hence the need for more awareness and support from the government and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to strengthen Universal Health Coverage in the society.
A recent Unicef report indicates that 40 million women of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years of age) in Nigeria suffer a disproportionately high level of health issues mostly surrounding childbirth.