Alexina is a 22 year old pregnant woman from the Bumanyi village in Kakamega, a county in Kenya with some of the worst maternal and newborn health indicators.
For Alexina and many women like her, having information on the special nutrition needs of pregnancy and access to skilled health care during pregnancy and labour can often be the difference between life and death for them and their babies.
To address this gap in knowledge and vital health services for women like Alexina, the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) is undertaking a community-based maternal and newborn health and nutrition project in four African countries, including Kenya.
In Kenya, MI is working with Kenya’s Ministry of Health, AMREF Kenya and PRONTO International, to demonstrate how to improve the quality and uptake of antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care and improve the community-facility linkage.
Part of the Kenya project coined Linda afya ya mama na mtoto, is to train community health workers to educate pregnant women about nutritional needs, the importance of attending antenatal care visits, and the need of delivering their baby at a health facility with a skilled birth attendant.
Alexina, pregnant with her second child, was encouraged by a community health worker to attend an antenatal care visit.
During a previous pregnancy, Alexina, like many other women in her community, did not go to a hospital because of the lack of skilled health care workers available.
This time around, Alexina sought out the services and received helpful information. She received iron and folic acid supplements to reduce anaemia, a tetanus injection and advice from the nurses on preparing for the birth of her child, including the need for rest and a well-balanced diet.
Alexina’s pregnancy progressed well without any major problems. But on her last clinic visit, she was advised to give birth in a hospital in case of complications because her baby was considered large. As part of her birth plan, she and her husband identified a nearby hospital as the one they would go to and hired a local bodaboda, or motorbike driver, to take them there once labour started.
On the night of March 11, Alexina’s labor pains started and she went to the hospital. By the following morning, the nurses told her she was having complications and labour was not progressing well.
Alexina and her husband became worried. However, with direction from the doctor at the facility and interventions to help the labour progress, her baby descended and the nurse, Alexina and her husband had hope the baby would survive.
“I urge other women still giving birth at home not to be afraid to go to hospitals to give birth,” said Alexina.” I am sure, had I not been in the hospital, I could have lost my baby.
“My baby didn’t cry immediately. I thought the baby was dead,” Alexina said. “I heard the doctor say, the baby is not breathing and should be assisted to breathe immediately. It took the nurses an agonizing 10-20 minutes to give him air. Finally, I heard the first cry of my baby. I was relieved. Thanks to the doctor and nurses of Matungu Hospital for saving my baby”.
Through the Linda afya ya mama na mtoto project, Alexina and other pregnant women are receiving vital health information during their pregnancies and gaining access to skilled health care at hospitals when they deliver.
This project is not only helping to reduce delays in women seeking, reaching and receiving skilled care, but is shifting attitudes and behaviour as more and more women and their communities gain confidence in the improved health care now available to them.
Learn more about MI’s integrated nutrition solutions to improving the health of pregnant women and their newborns.