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Kenya increases access to modern contraceptives to drive down maternal mortality

Kenya increases access to modern contraceptives to drive down maternal mortality


Kenya is seeking to reduce maternal mortality by increasing access to modern contraceptives for women who have just given birth, or had an abortion or miscarriage, the country’s health ministry has said.

The program targets four counties – Isiolo, Makueni, Kwale, and Kakamega – with stubbornly high maternal mortality rates and where the use of family planning is below 35 per cent.

Kenya’s health ministry says inadequate expertise and finances have hindered efforts to provide postpartum family planning in these areas.

Kenya’s maternal mortality rate remains a significant public health concern in Kenya, with 15 out of 47 counties shouldering 98.7 per cent of all maternal deaths.

These high-burden counties face a plethora of challenges such as poverty, insecurity, inadequate infrastructure, and historical marginalization, which have led to dismal maternal and newborn health outcomes.

Birth spacing

Dennis Miskella, a senior medical officer and gynecologist in Embu County, Kenya, says it is important for women in Africa to have access to contraceptives to ensure proper spacing between pregnancies.

Contraceptives are crucial for women to make informed choices about their reproductive health.”


Dennis Miskella, senior medical officer and gynecologist in Embu County, Kenya

“Women who have had abortions are more likely to get pregnant again quickly, making access to contraceptives vital to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce maternal mortality,” he added.

Miskella stressed that post-abortion care is also crucial to improve both the physical and mental health of women.

“Every woman’s body reacts differently to contraceptives, so it’s essential for healthcare practitioners to guide them in selecting the most effective method for their individual needs,” he said.

The programme is a step towards achieving Kenya’s commitment to increase modern contraceptive use for married women from 58 per cent to 64 per cent by 2030.

Studies show that family planning interventions can significantly reduce maternal deaths. Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends spacing pregnancies by two years to allow the woman’s body to fully recover and reduce the risk of complications in future pregnancies.

Contraceptive advice

However, experts caution that more needs to be done to address the unmet needs of women in Kenya, beyond simply issuing contraceptives.

“Counties need support for resources for training healthcare workers to enable them to provide adequate and comprehensive counselling to mothers and couples on the contraceptive options available,” said Njeri Nyamu, a public health specialist and director of Accelerating Post-Pregnancy Family Planning Integration into Public Health Care, a project run by the maternal health non-profit organisation Jhpiego.

Jhpiego, in partnership with Kenya’s council of governors, is supporting the health ministry by training healthcare workers on a wide array of family planning methods.

Nyamu says effective family planning uptake requires clinical services and community collaboration to address cultural norms that prevent people from fully utilising family planning, in addition to professional services.

Healthcare workers will receive training to provide advice to mothers and couples about contraceptive options, while community leaders and groups will be engaged to address cultural values and myths.

“This is not a healthcare workers’ affair alone,” Nyamu added.

“We work with community leaders and groups to address sociocultural constructs, myths, and misconceptions that often negatively influence family planning uptake.”

 



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