KAMPALA — Pre-eclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and infant mortality in Uganda according to experts.
“Pre-eclampsia affects 4% of the annual births (1,000,000) which is 40,000 women per year. A leading cause of maternal and infant mortality in Uganda especially in referral hospitals. Pre-eclampsia is responsible for 11 % of maternal deaths,” says Prof. Nakimuli.
Dr. Annette Nakimuli the Head Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Makerere University / Mulago Specialized Women & Neonatal Hospital/Kawempe National Referral Hospital made the revelations during a webinar presentation on the background and status of pre-eclampsia in Uganda during Pre-eclampsia awareness recently organised by HEPS –Uganda in partnership with other sister health organizations.
Nakimuli explains that there are about 600 pre-eclampsia deaths in Uganda per year. At Kawempe Hospital it affects 8% of admissions in the labour ward (4 patients daily) and is the leading cause of maternal death at 21%.
What is pre-eclampsia?
Dr Nakimuli describes Pre-eclampsia as a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. It causes damage to organ systems mostly often liver, kidneys, brain and the blood coagulation system. Frequently occurs in pregnancy but can also occur after delivery and also affects the baby.
Pre-eclampsia affects 5-8 % of all pregnancies world. Contributes to 16% of maternal deaths (women dying in pregnancy, child birth or after birth). Translates to 76,000 maternal deaths per year and also contributes significantly to death of newborns, causing death of 500,000 infants per year.
What can be done
Immediate complications to the baby include: Premature birth, being stillborn and born too small (stunting). According to the Executive director Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development, Denis Kibira, globally 350,000 women die annually from these conditions related to childbirth and pregnancy. Majority (99%) of the deaths occur in developing countries especially in Sub-Sharan Africa. In Uganda, 368 pregnancy related deaths per 1000 live deaths.
Mr Kibira says that early detection and intervention in Anit Natal Care, regular BP check and availability and use of blood pressure control medicines among others can save a mother and her unborn child.
He also recommends timely admission and management, availability and use of Magnesium Sulphate to prevent/ control fits, trained and highly experienced medical staff as well as early reporting to hospital is key.
Dr Nakimuli empathizes that if women are empowered with information and are supported by their partners, they have a better health seeking behavior, and demand for quality care.
May is always Pre-eclampsia awareness month, it is important to raise awareness for this severe and dangerous pregnancy complication.
Mr Kibira notes that to Prevent severe consequences of pre-eclampsia, one has to attend antenatal care as soon as they realize they are pregnant, should attend all their antenatal appointments, eat right, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight in addition to monitoring their blood pressure and weight regularly plus contact a health care provider in case your pressure rises and deliver under skilled attendants.
Signs and symptoms of Pre-eclampsia include; weight gain and swelling of feet, severe headache, blurred or lost vision, abdominal pain, difficulty in breathing among others. Some include; vomiting and nausea, complications develop into seizures and can lead to coma, brain damage among others.
Robin Biteyi the National Coordinator of White Ribbon Uganda says an estimated 175 new-borns die each day in Uganda, making Uganda the fifth highest number of new born deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. On average 17 mothers die daily in Uganda.
Ugandans should hold policy makers accountable and speak out in demand of quality, and accessible health care. Play your role and prepare for pregnancy and childbirth