The joy of every mother is to carry her pregnancy to term. This, however, is not often the case. A new maternal and child health survey shows that at least two of every 10 Nigerian women lose their pregnancy at one stage or the other before full term.
Beyond Nigerian women, the survey also states that across the world, one of every five pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Pregnancy loss, often referred to as abortion or miscarriage, can be painful and devastating for the woman and her family.
Indeed, the story of Feyikemi Ajala who, at present is six months pregnant, tells it all. Ajala says she has yet to get over the trauma of her multiple miscarriages, which took place in 2012. According to her, both pregnancies ended in miscarriage at the sixth week.
She says. “When I had the first miscarriage, I thought nothing of it till it happened again. The second time I conceived, I quickly registered at a hospital. However, there was a day that I became weak, so I took a bottle of soft drinks as well as some pain relief drugs and I slept off. By the time I woke up three hours later, I realised that I was bleeding. In fact, that was how I lost the pregnancy again.”
Doctors, according to Ajala, told her that the soft drink she took contained quinine, which reacted with the pain relief drugs, resulting in the miscarriage.
Ajala is not the only woman who has suffered miscarriage arising from this circumstance. Though doctors say that there are unavoidable miscarriage cases, more than 80 per cent of miscarriages are preventable, especially if women were aware of the causative factors.
A Consultant Gynaecologist, Bayo Windapo, who defines miscarriage as the loss of a baby during the first 23 weeks of pregnancy, notes that it can occur either due to the poor health status of the mother or that of the foetus.
The medic adds that self-medication, and the use of native medicines, such as herbal concoctions in the first three months of pregnancy are factors that predispose women to miscarriages in Nigeria.
The physician notes that the first trimester (three months) is the most delicate months of any pregnancy; hence, pregnant women should refrain from taking medicines or herbal preparations not recommended by a doctor.
“In fact, a major reason why abortion is common in this part of the world is because of the use of herbal concoctions or medicines known as Agbo. These native medicines are toxic and have no scientific dosage. So, if a pregnant woman abuses the medication, it may lead to an abortion. You do not know what has gone into it, so do not take it.
“Once a woman is diagnosed to be pregnant, she is not supposed to take any drug, no matter what happens, unless it is prescribed to her by a doctor. Drug reaction and interaction in the first trimester can lead to an abortion. No woman should practise self-medication,” he says.
Windapo also notes that women who engage in rigorous sexual activities in the first weeks of pregnancy can suffer miscarriages.
He states, “We call it trauma. Sex is in such category for a woman in her first trimester. In fact, sexual intercourse is risky in the first six weeks unless her partner is going to be very gentle.
“When you probe into reasons why a patient lost a pregnancy, especially in the early stages these days, you are likely to discover that it has to do with sexual activity. We are not saying that they should abstain from it. Funnily enough, it is even at this stage that women want it the most. But they must both be careful and gentle such that it does not stress the pregnancy.”
Another gynaecologist, Dr. Olarenwaju Ekunjimi, while highlighting other factors that lead to pregnancy loss, states that women who are hypertensive, diabetic and those that fall ill frequently are likely to suffer miscarriages.
Ekunjimi explains that the accompanying medical conditions arising from these illnesses could upset the foetus and lead to an abortion.
“Some medical conditions make it difficult for women to successfully carry pregnancies. If a woman is diabetic or has hypertension, she may not be healthy enough; hence, she will often have miscarriages.
“If she is falling ill and having malaria frequently, such that she will be needing drugs, it may be difficult for her to carry the pregnancy through because of the side effect of the drugs,” Ekunjimi notes.
Besides, experts also say that there are cases of miscarriages that occur due to some biological and unexplainable factors. For instance, they say that a woman may lose her pregnancy due to genetic damage.
Windapo explains, “An abortion can occur if damage has occurred to the chromosomes. This may also lead to having a baby with Down Syndrome. If the woman is carrying a baby that has a condition that does not support life itself, the body has a way of rejecting such pregnancies.”
To reduce the risk and incidence of miscarriages, medics also recommend that pregnant women should register for antenatal as soon as they become pregnant.
“As soon as it is confirmed that you are pregnant, especially if it is your first pregnancy, please register in a hospital that has a doctor, not just nurses. Do not go to a maternity home, which usually do not have doctors or specialists. Go to a hospital where you can see the doctor regularly,” they add.
SOURCE: THE PUNCH