By Wanangwa Mumba
About half of nearly 120 million women who give birth each year experience some kind of complication during their pregnancies and between 15 million and 20 million develop disabilities such as severe anaemia, incontinence, damage to the reproductive organs or nervous system, chronic pain, and infertility. Maternal disabilities have received relatively little attention, because they are often concealed.
A 19 year-old young lady from the area of Traditional Authority (T/A) Ngokwe in Machinga district survived this condition. After giving birth to a baby boy in November, 2013, she started experiencing unbearable pelvic pain. The lady had a combination of obstructed or prolonged labour and infection during and after labour (sepsis). These conditions are usually associated with severe postpartum infections and increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, and neurological injuries, as well as a condition called "Foot Drop" that makes walking difficult and chronic pelvic pain.
In spite of all the pain, the young lady saw nothing strange because she perceived it as a mere consequence of childbearing. This was perpetuated by the fact that she was then an adolescent mother and adolescent mothers often lack knowledge, experience, and strength than older mothers hence they are susceptible to complications during pregnancy. Teens are least likely, of all maternal age groups, to get early and regular prenatal care.
The condition greatly affected her and her family as she walked with difficulties and the pain was unbearable. Consequentially, she started suffering from psychological problems like feeling isolated from the community. As a subsistence famer, the condition also affected her crop production and this meant hunger.
Early in the year 2014, YONECO, through its trained parenting facilitators, introduced community support structures for parents (Parenting Circles) in some parts of Machinga district. The circles operate in such a way that the members share their personal experiences, challenges and successes in the course of upbringing children. Furthermore, the groups also provide help and guidance to other members in regards to parenting skills. In addition, they discuss various issues pertaining to child rights and protection since the family, as a basic unit of the society, is better positioned to enhance the promotion of children’s rights.
The process of sharing personal challenges helps the members to identify with others, break down isolation, and give hope to those struggling with seemingly insurmountable difficulties in parenting. It was through one of such forums where the case of the 19 year-old was brought to light. Some members of the group enlightened her parents that their daughter’s condition is curable and they were advised to seek medical attention.
The circle facilitator guided and supported the young lady and her parents and after seeking medical help, the condition has been cured and her life has turned back to normal.