According to experts, Nigeria, a country of 200 million population has one of the worst maternal death records globally, with about 9,000 Gynaecologists in the Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON). Notably, as one of the highest globally, the fertility rate of Nigeria is 5.3 births per woman. Fertility rate is the data of children, yearly, that are born alive to mothers which is then used as a percentage of the average annual population of women of the same age group. Dr. Habib Sadauki, the President of SOGON, lamented the insufficient number of Gynaecologists, stating that it is utterly inadequate.
Dr. Sadauki said that some Gynaecologists who are practicing in Nigeria are not endorsed with the association. He stated that the inability to access skilled birth attendants consequently affect the outcomes of pregnancy, stating that women in Nigeria, about 80 percent of them, currently put to birth at home. The rate of maternal deaths is high and this has caused worry to many. As a result of this, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals target to reduce the maternal mortality rate to lower than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 is not close to happening in Nigeria.
WHO said the period of childbirth and afterbirth is crucial.
He added that the economic situation in Nigeria currently has worsened the problem, particularly among vulnerable and poor women. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the period of childbirth and after birth is essentially crucial for maternal, fetal, and neonatal survival and well-being. The WHO said that efforts in the past ten years to reduce the negative outcomes for newborns and pregnant women have been channeled at increasing professional birth attendance. Also, effective care to manage and prevent negative outcomes during this crucial periods might have a significant effect on decreasing early neonatal deaths, stillbirths, and maternal deaths, which is a triple return on investment.
The World Health Organization stated that to stop preventable maternal and newborn mortality and morbidity all pregnant women need professional care during birth with evidence-based practices rendered in a supportive, humane environment. Relatively, the new report stated that, globally, Nigeria is ranked as the country with the second-highest number of maternal and child deaths. According to the report which was titled “Improving maternal and newborn health and survival and reducing stillbirth: Progress Report 2023”, it was highlighted that Nigeria was ranked the second-highest after India. This was deduced using the data of 540 children and women per thousands who died in Nigeria, in 2020.
Maternal health has been seriously affected by the downturn of the economy.
Additionally, the removal of fuel subsidy has caused expensive cost of transportation, decreasing the visitation of pregnant women for antenatal and further worsening the outcomes of pregnancy. Dr. Sadauki stated that there are over 9,000 Gynaecologists that are under the registration of SOGON. However, he added that there might be more Gynaecologists that are not registered under SOGON. Maternal health has been seriously affected by the downturn of the economy as there is undernutrition among pregnant women. Also, issues of facilities that are not functional, and brain drain that affects the number of providers are other challenges that threaten maternal health.
Also, the issue of home delivery, which was caused by high cost of transport fares to attend antenatal care and high cost of delivery, has been decried by the maternal health expert as he states that it is not safe. The dangers of this act are complications of bleeding which kills very fast, as some of the mothers deliver without any help around them. The SOGON president implored all pregnant women to ensure that they deliver in health facilities, where there are skilled birth attendants to prevent complications during childbirth. He added that It is dangerous to deliver a child without proper care or health facilities.
National Safe Delivery Programme should be put in place.
Oluwafemi Kuti, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, mentioned that the case of maternal death in Nigeria has made the country one of the worst places to deliver around the world. He stated that many women either die or become maimed during the period of pregnancy and childbirth, consequently many mothers are unable to use their God-given potential due to the patronage of unprofessional or unskilled care attendants that help deliver their children. Prof. Kuti suggested a National Safe Delivery Programme which would combat obstetrics complications, and should be supported by enabling law as a national project. He called for free care of women during their childbirth and delivery.