Kenyan Mothers Choose Hospitals for Births
When 18-year-old Salma Akéno gave birth earlier this year, she made a choice many other mothers in rural Kenya don’t make—she decided to deliver her first-born in a hospital, not at home.
Now she is encouraging other women to do the same as part of a new “Mothers Club” at the Kendu Bay Sub-district Hospital in western Kenya’s Nyanza province.
The club is the idea of Jane Owaka, the hospital’s chief nursing officer. Owaka was one of 365 health workers from across the country that completed the six-month Leadership Development Program (LDP), which teaches leadership and management skills and helps to address challenges in health facilities.
Owaka and her team were facing the fact that one in three women in the area give birth at home and not in a health facility. Women who deliver at home face greater risk of complications and infections, and their babies are less likely to be fully vaccinated.
The program, funded by USAID’s office in Kenya, is offered through Management Sciences for Health.
Eager to put her new management skills to use, Owaka rallied her colleagues to nearly double the hospital delivery rate to 60 percent. They created the Mothers Club, which recruits women attending the hospital’s prenatal clinic.
Women are asked to deliver their next child at the hospital, and to meet in a group twice a month to receive health education, including safe motherhood practices. They also are asked to educate other women in their villages about safe motherhood and the risks of delivering at home.
Owaka got contributions from the community to fund the program which pays mothers a small stipend for their travel to and from the hospital. It also covers the cost of amenities such as warm water and hot tea for the women after they give birth.
In January, prior to the creation of the club, only 20 women had given birth in the hospital. By May, just half-way through the program, 36 women had in-hospital deliveries. Today, there are more than 40 club members, and Owaka is seeing fewer complications and an increase in infant immunizations.
“Now we are able to monitor pregnancies earlier, more mothers are having safe deliveries, and their babies are healthier, too,” said Owaka. “We also use the opportunity to talk to the women about family planning, paternal involvement in the family, and the risks of HIV/AIDS.”
Akéno is now the secretary for the Mothers Club, her first leadership role in her young lifetime. She is using her post to raise awareness of the importance of hospital deliveries.
“Every day, whether I’m in church, or fetching water, wherever I meet other mothers, I tell them why it is important to deliver their babies in the hospital,” Akéno said. “By doing this, we can be sure we are not taking risks with our own health, and that our babies will be well monitored.”