By MIRIAM ZIMBA –
WITH a maternal mortality rate of 591 In Zambia, 591 per 100,000 live births while the infant, neo-natal and under-five mortality rates are at 70, 34, and 119 per 1,000 live births, respectively, family planning has continued to be viewed as a woman’s issue.
Although pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous moment for an expectant mother, it can sometimes become a source of worry, when the fate of the woman and sometimes even the unborn baby is unknown.
This is because many women have left pregnancy to chance, and rarely plan when to become pregnant, in some cases, the number of children to have.
One of the ways of enhancing the life of both the mother and baby at the point of delivery and during the post-natal period is through rigorous family planning measures.
This entails, carefully planning for pregnancy, and ensuring a minimum period of two years recovery period for the woman’s body in between pregnancies.
This two-year period allows the body of the women to fully recover from the pregnancy, as well as accord the woman enough time and attention to attend to the baby.
To address this, it is imperative that family planning measures are put in place.
Senior registrar for gynecology and obstetrics at the University teaching Hospital (UTH) Samson Chisele defines contraception as any measure, activity or sexual practice that inhibits pregnancy.
“These act by preventing ovulation, preventing fertilisation or preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus,” he explained.
Dr Chisele said according to the latest Zambia Demographic Health Survey (ZDHS) of 2010, the most popular contraception method in Zambia is currently the combined oral contraceptives followed by the condom.
UTH head gynecology and obstetrics department Bellington Vwalika explains that safe mother-hood does not only entail carrying a pregnancy to full term and delivering a healthy baby.
He adds that safe motherhood implies a woman having children when she is ready, as well as having the desired number of children.
Dr Vwalika explained that some of the dangers associated with multiple pregnancies, which are not properly spaced include complications during deliveries, and sometimes maternal mortalities.
He encouraged women shunning contraception to consider visiting health centres to get advice on the many options available which they could choose from.
He also encouraged women to consider Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) methods such as the Post-Partum Intra-uterine Device (PPIUD), and the implant.
He explained that LARC’s are relatively safe for use by all women including breast-feeding mothers.
He regretted the low up-take of LARC methods of contraception in the country, saying this was despite them being readily available in health centres.
“These methods of contraception are safe to use, the PPIUD can last as long as 13 years, yet there up-take has been less than one per cent in Zambia,” he said.
Dr Vwalika advised women to embark on contraception methods that meet their personal needs adding that contraception is cost effective for long term planning of families.
Some of the socio economic benefits of the use of contraception include enhanced productivity among women, because of timely and well-spaced pregnancies.
Dr Chilsele also explained that women who use contraception tend to have healthier babies, because more attention is given to the babies due to longer breast-feeding period of up to one and half years as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Using recent (ZDHS), the Department for Foreign International Development (DFID) calculated the number of maternal deaths could be averted by fulfilling the unmet need for contraception.
The goal is to raise awareness of the benefits of family planning and the availability of services, engage local leaders, and train health staff all in a very short time, so that demand creation happens
concurrently with the increase in availability of services locally.
This approach will give impetus to attaining both Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) number four which seeks to reduce child mortality, as a result of enhanced mother-baby care, as well as MDG five which is meant to reduce maternal mortality from the current 591 to below 271 in Zambia.