WITH over 800 cases of listeriosis now confirmed across the country and the rate of children born with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders 14 times higher than the global average, South Africa is in dire need of education around health during pregnancy.
National Pregnancy Awareness Week, which ran from February 12 to 16, provided an important platform for discussion on these issues. “So much happens in the months before conception and during the 40-week gestational period which can affect your child’s mental and physical development for the rest of their life.
“Women should have tests as early as they can, certainly by 10 or 12 weeks into pregnancy to pick up abnormalities and allow for patient education around key risks,” said Dr Howard Manyonga, obstetrician and head of The Birthing Team.
According to Manyonga, one of the biggest risks to unborn babies in South Africa is the consumption of alcohol and drugs during pregnancy.
“Women should be aware that if they consume alcohol, are sexually active and not using contraception, they may fall pregnant and unknowingly expose their baby to its toxic effects at a very sensitive stage of development. Women who are already pregnant must avoid it entirely,” he said.
Another threat is the recent outbreak of the bacterial disease listeriosis, which has claimed 82 lives in South Africa to date. Pregnant women are one of the most at-risk groups.
Manyonga urges them to take precautions such as keeping food preparation areas clean, washing all fruits and vegetables thoroughly, regularly washing their hands, ensuring cooked food is properly refrigerated and meats kept separately from other food items.
Pregnant women who experience cold-like symptoms should see a medical professional as soon as possible. In order to make comprehensive maternity care more affordable, Manyonga and the team at integrated health-care company PPO Serve launched The Birthing Team, a team-based maternity programme designed for women without medical aid who want to access private care for their pregnancy and birth.
The programme offers complete care for a set fee, which is determined upfront after a comprehensive medical assessment.
“The unpredictability of costs is a deterrent to accessing care in the private sector for women not on medical aid.
“An affordable set-fee model, where necessary care is delivered by a multidisciplinary team supports proactive care and gives expectant parents peace of mind about costs,” said Manyonga
The Birthing Team is now operational in Berea, Johannesburg, and the Durban city centre. Based in well-known private hospitals, the teams consist of midwives and obstetricians who work together with other health-care providers to develop and carry out individualised care plans for expectant moms in the programme. — Supplied