Free Antenatal Services for Women

The month of June 2014 went down in history for the Kabale community in southwestern Uganda as it saw the grand opening of the Kirigime Maternal and Child Health Hospital. Edmonton-based organization, Change for Children, and Ugandan organization, KIHEFO, worked in partnership to bring access to maternal and child health care to Kabale.

At the new hospital, pregnant women are given physical assessments to check the mother’s health, specifically looking for any signs of anemia and high blood pressure (which increase her chances of having a high-risk labor with complications, including post-partum hemorrhaging). Women are given malaria prophylaxis along with iron and folic acid vitamins. Midwives check for the baby’s positioning and listen for a healthy fetal heart beat. Services are available at the clinic free of charge.

Brandina, a pregnant single mother of a three-year-old relies on the small cash she earns digging to buy sweet potatoes and groundnuts. There is nothing left over. Without the free antenatal care provided by the clinic, she, and so many others, would not be able to access any antenatal care.

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2012) estimates that 91,000 infants are born annually to HIV+ mothers in Uganda and that only 50% of the women receive any HIV intervention for the elimination of mother to child transmission. Women who attend the antenatal clinic are also tested for HIV/AIDS to help eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child. With effective intervention (and immediate anti-retroviral therapy), an HIV+ woman has a 95% chance of giving birth to a healthy child.

Most women in southwestern Uganda don’t undergo ultrasound scanning as it is not affordable at public hospitals. Free ultrasound scans at the new clinic will help healthcare providers determine a woman’s risk level for childbirth, prevent complicated labors, and reduce maternal mortality. Ultrasound screening is crucial for early detection of potential risks.

Ultrasound screening at the clinic recently saved the life of a six-month pregnant mother when it was determined that her fetus had died in the womb. A rapid response ensued and the woman was escorted to a private hospital for surgery.

The new hospital also offers nutrition counseling for pregnant and lactating women. In Uganda, over 60% of pregnant women are found to be anemic, which is caused by a poor diet, lacking in iron and vitamin B12. Anemia causes shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue; when in labor, many women fail to be able to push, which can be life threatening, especially when a woman is far from life-saving medical technologies.

Malnutrition is a critical contributing cause of maternal mortality in southwestern Uganda. Nutrition counseling helps women identify available and affordable foods for their own health and the health of their children.

Charity, a young widow and mother cares for her three-year old daughter and her two-week old newborn.She takes advantage of the free antenatal and maternal health services and attends maternal health workshops every Thursday. In spite of the challenges she faces, she is determined to give her children the benefit of the knowledge available to her.

Word of mouth moves information quickly in Ugandan communities, and the number of women who register at the Kirigime Maternal and Child Health Hospital continues to climb on a weekly basis. After just four months, the clinic has already proved to be a source of hope and health for mothers, for children, and for the Kabale community.

Blog contributed by Change for Children.


October 7, 2014


Change for Children