KWAZULU-Natal Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo says the Department will continue targeting women and teenage girls to educate them about the benefits of abstinence from sex, family planning, and seeking early antenatal care for those who are pregnant.
He has also sounded a warning bell on the dangers of using traditional medicine (isihlambezo) to induce pregnancy.
It is believed that eight percent of pregnancies are from teenage mothers, but teenage mothers contribute 25% to the rate of maternal deaths.
Accompanied by traditional healers and local government leaders, Dhlomo visited uMzinyathi District on September 27 where he led a march through the Dundee central business district, urging young people to abstain from sex and use dual protection (female contraceptives coupled with condoms), and men and boys to undergo medical male circumcision. Dhlomo says this was part of a series of upcoming community dialogues that are aimed at improving the province’s health outcomes.
“When people who are aged 13, 14, and 15 are falling pregnant, it tends to have a lot of other consequences. Some of these girls even drop out of school and never go back again. Some of them are even getting infected with HIV and AIDS while they are pregnant. So, we want to say that there is merit in delaying sexual debut. But for those who believe they are ready to have sexual partners, we really request them to visit their local clinic, because it is still possible to have a partner but not to fall pregnant.
“To those who are planning to fall pregnant, we welcome that. But they must not delay making the first visit to our clinics, and thereafter stick to the agreed-upon schedule,” he said.
Dhlomo said the first visit to a clinic during the second or third month is extremely valuable because this is when the foetus starts to develop, and it may be vulnerable to underlying diseases if no health examinations are made.
“There are many complications that can be avoided if mothers do come early. In fact, you find that we are able to assist them with preventative programmes. Some of them may be HIV positive or have other diseases. But, once treated early, we guarantee [they will have] babies that are HIV negative. It is very important to do that.
“However, we know that during pregnancy there are certain traditional remedies that are used to facilitate the delivery and labour. I am glad that in our dialogues we were joined by traditional leaders who themselves are agreeing that traditional remedies must not be used early in pregnancy, and must certainly not be used before the eighth month.
“I went further to tell them that even beyond the eighth month, not all women qualify for traditional medicine. You look at the size of the pelvis, and the size of the head of the baby coming and you can tell that this woman is unlikely to delivery naturally, and she’ll need a Caesarean Section. In such a woman, we really discourage the use of traditional medicine. Rather, we must work with traditional leaders and be able to assess which women will benefit from the use of isihlambezo.”
Dhlomo also encouraged all women to self-examine for breast cancer, and those over the age of 35 to visit healthcare facilities to get screened and tested for cervical cancer by undergoing a Pap Smear. — Supplied.