By Kuda Pembere
AT the borderline is Zimbabwe trying to consider adopting latest World Health Organisation’s antenatal care guidelines requiring eight antenatal contacts instead of four that the country is currently doing well with.
In November last year, WHO recommended that a minimum of eight contacts for antenatal care can reduce perinatal deaths by up to 8 per 1000 births when compared to a minimum of four visits.
Sharing findings in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) SWOP report on Wednesday (today), the organisation’s local Assistant Ms Abbigail Msemburi said they are deliberating on the viability of making eight antenatal visits mandatory.
“Antenatal visits are increasing already. We are talking of defaults and ladies especially even looking at our context women are living far away from hospitals. I think the move from into eight happened in November last year.
“You actually know that we are working very closely with the government of Zimbabwe with the ministry of health in particular to really look at the feasibility of working with eight visits. Is that practical for us because in terms of the four visits. We are one of those countries where we are doing quite well with the four visits,” she said.
She added that Zimbabwe is performing well on antenatal care due to various programs they have put in place.
“And why we are doing well with the four visits is because we have different programs in place including the maternity waiting homes, mitumba that we have where women with high risk pregnancies go and wait. So as a result they are sitting there and they have access to the midwives,” said Msemburi.
Msemburi said negotiations are underway with government, WHO and themselves to reach a consensus of whether or not Zimbabwe should require eight visits.
“At the moment the government is really looking at it that at the moment should we propose eight or we can truly justify to say what, we are working very well with our four. We will stick to our four or we can go midway and say we will stay at six.
“So that dialogue is actually ongoing with WHO, the ministry and ourselves and we are actually just giving them some technical support to make sure that that happens.
“So whatever decision reached by the ministry it’s for the best benefit for the woman. We are looking at our context and we do not want to undo the gains that we already made with the four visits. I think very soon, we will know the status for this,” she noted.
In the report, UNFPA discovered that 20 per cent of households in developing countries have the lowest access to antenatal care, compared with other wealth quintiles. Although access to antenatal care is growing worldwide, women in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, routinely make or receive fewer than four antenatal visits