BULAWAYO has recorded a 53 percent increase in the number of women who deliver at home or on their way to a health institution owing to Covid-19.
Home births are a leading cause of maternal and peri-natal deaths in Zimbabwe, as the maternal mortality rate stands at 462. Maternal mortality ratio is the number of women who die during pregnancy and child birth per 100 000 live births and Zimbabwe has one of the highest rates in the world.
Peri-natal mortality refers to the number of still births and deaths in the first week of life in babies. Some women have been shying away from health institutions due to Covid-19, which has affected health care workers.
About 14 nurses at Mpilo Central Hospital have tested positive to Covid-19 and more than 269 health care workers have been quarantined in Bulawayo.
People are also reportedly choosing home births because they cannot afford hospital user fees. Council clinics charge $390, while public hospitals charge $292 for normal deliveries.
Health institutions demand a preparation package that includes cotton wool, methylated spirits, diapers, maternity pads and baby clothes.
Some women say they have no money to buy the items.
According to the latest Bulawayo City Council report, the number of babies born before arrival increased by 53 percent in council-run clinics.
The local authority has six maternity clinics and recorded 412 deliveries in June.
“A decrease was noted in antenatal bookings and deliveries and the number of babies born before arrival increased by 53 percent, the read the council minutes. In May, there were 43 babies born before arrival and these include babies born while their mothers were on the way to a registered maternity health institution.”
A midwife at a local clinic who preferred anonymity said some women had become reluctant to seek health care while pregnant, which was a cause for concern.
“Many pregnant women are now coming to the clinic after delivery, which is dangerous to both to the mother and the child, she said. They are claiming that nurses have Covid-19 and that institutions are breeding the pandemic which makes them scared to come and be attended by skilled personnel while delivering.
“Yes, we are aware that some cases of Covid-19 have been reported among health care workers, but that should not be the reason why they deliver at home as they may die or develop life-long complications.”
Bulawayo gynaecologist Dr Solwayo Ngwenya warned against the practice, saying it was dangerous for pregnant women to shy away from clinics and hospitals.
“We don’t encourage women who are pregnant to stay at home and deliver at home as that leads to maternal and peri-natal deaths, he said. There are many problems that can occur during pregnancy, for instance, the baby can die inside the womb or the mother can develop serious complications.”
Dr Ngwenya said pregnant women needed monitoring even during labour so that maternal deaths were averted.