The Sour Taste of Pregnancy in Cameroon
As a young woman who has had three pregnancies and is now a mother to two children, I have had my share of the deplorable conditions expectant mothers in Cameroon are subjected to. I have equally gathered much from the stories other women have shared with me and those I have heard from third parties. From going through undeserved surgeries, to facing unscrupulous medical personnel to being poorly informed and nurtured during pregnancy and delivery, there so many sour experiences when maternal health is concerned.
Last year, two of my acquaintances had Cesarean Sections (C.S) they did not require. They were a means of the private clinics where they bore their children to enrich themselves. Some private health workers in Cameroon's economic capital, Douala deceive pregnant women saying their pregnancies are complicated and they can only be delivered when the surgeon's knife comes upon them. This is a way these dupes in the cloaks of medical personnel enrich themselves. C.S normally brings in more money than a normal delivery so they had rather conduct surgeries than natural births. A documentary I watched on maternal health stipulates that Cesarean Sections are far more risky than normal deliveries. These egocentric medical practitioners put these women's lives in danger so that they can make more money off them.
A lady I met at a babies shop narrated her unfortunate birth story to me. She had gone to a government health center to give birth. In this center, employees receive compensation when a woman gives birth during their work shift. So the employees did not want to leave work that day without a woman being delivered to their benefit. Instead of allowing labor progress naturally, they quickly administered injections to speed up the process. Such injections caused her to feel excruciating pain. As if that was not enough harm, they proceeded to burst the amniotic sac. And with all this the woman still had to be operated upon, for her life and that of the baby to be saved.
Some midwives simply do not care. Labor for my first child began at night so I was rushed to the hospital at about 10 pm. The midwife in attendance was asleep when I got there. She was so unhappy because I interrupted her slumber. This made her very hostile towards me throughout that night and if not for the timely intervention of more accommodating colleagues I wonder what that delivery would have been like.
My second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage which could have been avoided if I had met committed health workers when I got to the hospital. Instead of getting me checked immediately I insisted that my situation needed urgent attention, they offered to admit me as an in-patient and keep me waiting with no care whatsoever. That was how I bled until I finally lost my second baby.
With my third pregnancy I had very poor prenatal care in the hospital where I registered: No lectures on my first visit, no conducting of essential tests and an arrogant midwife who will not explain a simple question I asked. I eventually evaded this hospital to give birth in a private clinic where the workers were more hospitable. However, when I got my bill at the end, it had been consciously inflated. I was even given a drug I never needed that caused me so much pain. When I complained about the pain, I was given 2 injections that immediately calmed me down. And I had to pay for all these drugs!
More evils exist when it comes to maternal health care in Cameroon. Mothers are not given adequate information to sustain them throughout pregnancy. Some of them loose their premature babies because they were not incubated on time. Some get infections because their after-birth tears were not stitched. Some lose their babies right after they are born because midwives are too busy (watching television in one case) to attend to them. Some bleed to death because no medication was given to control abnormal bleeding. The list is just endless.
The truth is a lot of nurses, midwives and medical doctors are not passionate about their jobs. They are more passionate about money. Pregnant women who need premium care continue to be their victims. According to a World Bank report published in 2012, as at 2010, 690 women in Cameroon died during pregnancy and childbirth per 100, 000 live births. This number can be greatly reduced if the ills plaguing maternal health are curbed.
I call on my fellow women to study intensely when they are pregnant so that they will not be fooled into Cesarean Sections. A woman, who went to give birth in a mission hospital in Douala was quickly scheduled for an operation when she had not even been examined. She got angry about this and packed her bags to another mission hospital where she had a vaginal delivery after a few hours. We need to stand up for ourselves like this woman did. Let us empower yourselves with knowledge and choose the better health institutions among the bad ones. Pregnant women carry the future generation so they need appropriate care!