Kiyoni Health Centre III in Kyankwanzi District has prioritised attending to spouses, who show up at the facility, as a way of encouraging husbands to escort their expectant wives for antenatal healthcare visits.
It is reported that those who do not come with their partners are attended to last even if they came in early.
In our story of April 16 titled, “Hospital prioritises couples for antenatal care services”, the officer-in-charge of the facility, Ms Justine Nakigudde, said the reason they require both spouses present during antenatal care is because they sometimes carryout tests such as HIV/Aids, syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases that may affect the baby if both parents are not treated.
A number of health facilities are using this as a way to improve male involvement in maternal health and safe motherhood.
While this initiative is good for mothers who actually have spouses, it is not enough.
In a 2013 Daily Monitor story titled, “Women opt for fake husbands to access antenatal services”, it was reported that expectant mothers in Alebtong District had found a way around the requirement to have a spouse with you before you could access antenatal services.
The women resorted to taking male relatives, friends and sometimes strangers to masquerade as their spouses because their husbands would not go with them and yet this was mandatory.
One mother said she had to plead with a boda boda rider to be her ‘husband’ at a fee of Shs1,500 so that she could access services at the health centre.
It goes without saying that this defeats the purpose of having both spouses attend antenatal services and points to the fact that there is urgent need to sensitise men about the importance of supporting their pregnant wives in all ways possible, including participating in antenatal care.
While what Kiyoni Health Centre III and many others like it are doing may be well-intentioned, it must be handled carefully in order not to discourage pregnant women with absent, deadbeat or uncooperative partners.
A multi-pronged approach with emphasis on community sensitisation and awareness is necessary. The importance of safe motherhood cannot be over emphasised and antenatal services are key.
According to World Health Organisation, antenatal care can detect and manage existing diseases, recognise and treat complications early, provide information and counselling on signs and symptoms of problems, recommend where to seek treatment if complications arise, and help women and their families prepare for childbirth.
Therefore, let us promote sensitisation on male involvement in safe motherhood but also not complicate access to antenatal services.