Expectant mothers give thumbs up to St James antenatal team

Expectant mothers give thumbs up to St James antenatal team

Sunday, July 05, 2020

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FOR two mothers in Granville, St James, the antenatal clinic at Granville Health Centre has been transformational.

Keron Smith and Tashanie Gardner are expectant mothers who are singing the praises of the antenatal nursing team in the second city of Montego Bay. Smith, who will be giving birth to her fourth child, and Gardner, a first-time mom, are both at the 20-week mark of their pregnancies.

The two women have benefited from the intense training of the nurses in the public health system, which has been provided by the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC).

Since 2013, PROMAC has designed and executed training across Jamaica's hospitals and health regions with the “goal of reducing maternal mortality” and “that all women and children enjoy the highest attainable standard of health and well-being”.

To improve the success of these objectives, PROMAC, in partnership with the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), with additional funding by the European Union, has embarked on an awareness campaign to get mothers participating in their maternal health and well-being.

With the 'Clinic is a Mus and Healthy Body is a Mus' campaign, PROMAC and the NFPB are targeting new and repeat mothers and urging their attendance to regular antenatal clinics while practising the healthy habits of diet and exercise.

Knowledge is power

As a teenaged mother, Smith said she overcame her initial nervousness with the encouragement of her mother.

“I went to the clinic really early, because my mother is that type of person, and when I went I found that my blood type was O-Negative and I was anaemic,” she shared, which was important information as the clinic staff could design a plan for her care.

Smith delivered her son almost 11 years ago and recounts that shortly after giving birth, her vision diminished.

“I couldn't see anything; I was just hearing what they were saying. I tell them everything was dark and that's when they found out that my blood count was really too low,” Smith said.

She welcomed a second son, who is now seven, and the delivery of her third — a daughter four years ago — did not come with any new complications beyond being days past her estimated delivery date. All the while, Smith was constantly monitored as she still had anaemia challenges.

“My nurse helped me well. They keep me up to date and mek sure I'm taking my iron tablet; they were my backbone. At every visit they would talk about my levels and will give me a percentage of where it is supposed to be,” the product merchandiser and part-time hairdresser shared.

In this her fourth pregnancy, Smith has been keeping active and thanks God that her blood count is at acceptable levels.

For mothers with O-Negative blood type, there is a test at 32 weeks to determine whether the foetus shares the same blood type. If not, the mother has to be administered a RhoGAM injection that is made up of antibodies called immunoglobulin, to help protect the foetus from its mother's antibodies.

The tests and constant checks by the public health, supported by the PROMAC training, has improved patient outcomes, according to Marion Waysome-McIntyre, behaviour change communication coordinator at the NFPB.

“Expectant mothers need to go to the clinic regularly,” said Waysome-McIntyre. “Jamaica has a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity. These are the most common conditions we have identified that lead to maternal death. With regular check-ups at the clinic, we can reduce the impact on the lives of the women, their babies and their families.”

Nervous no more

For 23-year-old Gardner, after starting clinic at 12 weeks, her nervousness has decreased considerably.

“I always said to myself that kids were not for me, and there was some level of denial. So I started clinic at the encouragement of a friend. I was nervous on the first day, but then I realised that it is not hard,” Gardner said.

The self-professed party girl said her family encouraged her to attend clinic as her party lifestyle prior to realising she was pregnant could have its effects.

“I was drinking for the first three months, my diet was poor and so they encouraged me to go. They told me I would get vitamins and prenatals to get healthy for the baby.

“The experience has been great. I got a sense of relaxation at the clinic because I have a lot of questions and it is comforting. The nurses are there to walk me through the steps and stages and what to expect,” she added.

She relayed that a lot of family members have shared that the birth is very painful, but at the nurses' reassurances, she was told that every experience is different.

The nurses are also happy to give nutritional advice.

“At one of the checks, my sugar level was high, but I drank a lot of water that month and the next time they checked it was back to normal. They told me that breastfeeding is the best for the first six months, as it helps with the baby's development,” Gardner shared.

She said her mother regularly gives advice, but it is good to get it from the medical experts.

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