What you need to know:
- Public hospitals fare no better in how they treat women and girls, as news reports have shown over the years.
- The Nation Gender desk also revealed that there’s not much to write home about on maternal care a decade after healthcare was devolved.
One persistent belief I often encountered before experiencing childbirth myself was that once I cradled my bundle of joy in my arms, the memory of labour pains and all other distressing moments would simply fade away like a fleeting dream.
What they failed to mention is that there’s a cocktail of feelings before, during and after childbirth, and joy is just a tiny fraction of it. It’s an intricate blend of emotions, yet the world often romanticises it, leaving mothers bewildered when immediate euphoria doesn’t wash over them.
Imagine enduring painful episiotomies, uncomfortable catheters, and intrusive examinations to check how far you have dilated, all while being attended to by strangers. It’s a harsh reality for many mothers.
I once interviewed a woman who, scarred by a harrowing first birth at a private hospital, chose supervised home births for her subsequent children and has never looked back since.
Public hospitals fare no better in how they treat women and girls, as news reports have shown over the years. The Nation Gender desk also revealed that there’s not much to write home about on maternal care a decade after healthcare was devolved.
These thoughts preoccupied my mind recently when I attended a report launch by White Ribbon Alliance Kenya, where they dissected the question: What does respectful maternity care mean to women, girls and health service providers?
The resounding demands of women and girls were crystal clear: they yearn to be treated respectfully and warmly, to access quality services, and to do so without mistreatment, harassment, or discrimination.
On the other side, health service providers echoed the importance of friendly service, timely access to all needed services, and the provision of quality facilities.
In Kenya, negligence, inadequate staffing, and poor infrastructure continue to threaten the lives of pregnant women and newborns.
The report rightfully concludes that respectful, dignified care necessitates substantial investment in infrastructure and training. However, we cannot overlook the fact that some of these crucial needs come at a remarkably low cost.
Childbirth in Kenya is a rollercoaster of beauty and terror, especially for first-time mothers.
As we celebrate World Patients Week, let us champion the cause of respectful maternity care, recognising that, in many instances, what women want in maternal healthcare doesn’t cost much—it demands our humanity.
The writer comments on social and gender topics (@FaithOneya; [email protected]).