As alarming as the number of Nigerian women dying during child birth is, the challenges facing these women during the pregnancy phase are still not well tackled by the government. Over the years, we have seen hundreds of women leave the country for child delivery in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and many other developed countries. What could be the reason for this? Most Nigerians would give reasons that these families want their kids to be the citizens of those developed countries. Sometimes, this is far from the truth.
The Nigerian government has gone the extra mile in ensuring that rural clinics are equipped to handle the ante-natal services for those living in the rural areas, medical laws have been passed, and acts enacted to sure that women are safe during their pregnancy, yet; religion has become far more deadly than the traditional birth attendants (TBA).
Religion has birthed dangerous places for some of these pregnant women in the name of prayer houses, where prayers and spiritual exorcism are used to support women during child birth instead of the medical services in clinics, hospitals and few teaching hospitals in the country. Chamberlain Diala (PhD, MPH), Associate Director, the Global Health, Population and Nutrition at FHI 360 have this to say:
“Now, there are justifiable reasons for some of the preferences for TBA and religious houses, however, these alternative options have significant challenges in cases where pregnancy-related complications may arise. The potential complications can be best addressed by skilled providers in well-equipped health centers.”
It is surprising that most women in the country trust their lives in the hands of these religious women who have made themselves qualified medical personnel(some of these women never saw the four walls of any higher institution) to the trained medical personnel who can save them from complications during child birth. Instead of going for their normal ante-natal care services, they allow these religious women to give them treatment and prayers especially when it comes to cephalopelvic disproportion.
Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) has taken more lives in many prayer homes in Nigeria because these religious women strongly believe that the pregnant women would end up giving birth as the ancient Hebrew woman according to biblical belief instead of going for caesarean section. CPD occurs when there is a disproportion between the head of the baby and the mother’s pelvis. What this simply means is that the head of the baby is too large to pass through the pelvis of the mother or her birth canal, resulting in complication. The easiest way to handle this complication is through C-section, which these religious women believe to be a procedure from the evil world.
Unfortunately, hundreds of women have died during spiritual exorcism when the women suffering from CPD are in labour. Sometimes, the head of the baby comes out and the other parts are abandoned inside. It is only this time that the women are quickly rushed to the hospital. Most private hospitals in the country reject these patients because they do not have the facilities to save the lives of the women in pain.
CPD is very difficult to diagnose before labour pains because it is also difficult to say how a fetal head and the mother’s pelvis can adjust and mould to each other. This brings us back to ante natal care service that could have saved these women.
Lives could be saved if religion and health are fully demarcated by laws in the country. It is high time, these religious women are put in their right place with public awareness about CPD and C-section. We are not saying that prayers are not effective for troubled pregnant women, but we want these women to understand that prayer houses are for their spiritual purposes while the medical centres are for taking care of them to ensure that they give birth successfully with low rate of complication.