KIBUKU. Much as it is a policy by the Ministry of Health for men to accompany their pregnant wives for antenatal care, many expectant mothers continue to visit health facilities alone as a result of their husbands’ lack of commitment.
In many health facilities, pregnant women who turn up alone have been pushed behind the queues, giving priority to couples as a way of encouraging them to convince their husbands to join them in the next visit.
For Ms Annet Namakoye, the husband has never appeared at the health facility throughout the four pregnancies the 21-year-old has carried.
Ms Namakoye says it is always by luck to be examined without a husband.
The eight-months expectant mother says it is always painful not to appear at the facility without the husband.
“The health workers abuse us when we come without our husbands. They shout at us yet we also try our level best to come with them but they refuse,” she says.
The officer-in-charge of Kibuku Health Centre IV, Mr William Sango Mpulumba, says the number of men accompanying their wives to the facility is worrying since the couple misses the chance of being counselled and guided on pregnancy care.
“It is a precondition that a woman reports for antenatal care with her husband. However, it is very disappointing that out of 10 women who turn up here, only two are accompanied by their men,” he says.
Mr Mpulumba explains that the reason men must accompany their wives for antenatal care is to have joint screening for HIV/Aids, Hepatitis B and other sexually transmitted infections so as to guide them on how to have a baby free of these infections.
“The biggest challenge is that men continue to shun their responsibility of providing comfort to their pregnant wives,” he adds.
According to Ms Elizabeth Ekirapa Kiracho, a senior lecturer at Makerere University, it is important to carry out thorough sensitisation of the couples to visit health facilities together to have healthy babies.
“The community members, service providers and local government should work together to generate solutions to this challenge. The lack of participation by men is affecting our efforts for maternal new born health management because men are supposed to play a key role,” she says.
Ms Kiracho says men have a big role to play in the management of pregnancy right from conception to child birth because mothers go through a lot of challenges that they sometimes cannot handle alone.
The health facilities are lacking enough midwives to work on the number of mothers that flock the health facilities in rural areas.
Mr Mpulumba says sometimes the few midwives deployed are strained by the numbers as they are needed in the labour room at the same time when they are supposed to handle those on antenatal care.
He also says the rural health facilities lack enough labour rooms, bathrooms and immunisation rooms.
He adds that in most cases, the patients are mixed with delivered mothers, which is not healthy to the newly born babies.
Health workers also point out that sometimes mothers appear at the facilities without the basic requirements for child birth which makes it difficult to handle.
In total, 40 per cent of mothers complete four visits and between 55 to 65 per cent of them deliver at the health facilities.
Mr Bumba says despite increasing the number of midwives across the district, most facilities are grappling with dilapidated delivery beds which need immediate replacement.