Director of Health Promotion and Protection in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Simone Spence, is encouraging women planning on having children to ensure they are in good health prior to conceiving.
This, Dr. Spence says, is in order to ensure the best outcomes for mother and baby during and after pregnancy.
She was speaking during a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) Think Tank at the Agency’s Head Office in Kingston on Wednesday (August 5).
Dr. Spence’s urging comes against the background of the Programme for the Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality (PROMAC) campaign, themed ‘Healthy Body is a Must, Clinic is a Must’, which focuses on empowering women to take control of their health prior to and during pregnancy.
Dr. Spence, who is PROMAC’s Coordinator, explained that the campaign was executed under Component 4 of the Programme, which was aimed at heightening awareness among women of the need to take responsibility for their health during the reproductive process.
She explained that the campaign was predicated on observations made among the target cohort.
“We thought it important that we look at this public education campaign for women in the reproductive age group because one of the things we recognised, especially with maternal health, is that, globally, every one to two minutes, a woman somewhere dies during pregnancy or childbirth” she said.
Against this background, Dr. Spence emphasised that it is imperative for women to take the necessary steps to safeguard their health prior to and during the early stage of pregnancy.
“So the objective of this campaign is really about trying to empower women in the reproductive age group to access care early, so that the pregnancy can be appropriately managed throughout the entire period,” she added.
The PROMAC Coordinator said it is important to note that there was an increasing trend of older women becoming pregnant.
She noted that for older women, the likelihood of their having underlying medical conditions or comorbidities, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension or sickle cell disease, makes it crucially important that their health be properly managed.
Consequently, Dr. Spence said it was prudent for women in this category to ensure that they are in good health, particularly before conceiving, as pregnancy can complicate or exacerbate underlying medical conditions.
She noted that health professionals’ experience with women who have had multiple pregnancies is that they often assume that, having done so, there is no need to seek antenatal care at the earliest possible time.
Dr. Spence warned, however, that pregnancies differ, hence it is suggested that women seek antenatal care once a period is missed.
“Go to your clinic or to your healthcare provider, do your pregnancy test and ensure that the entire screening process is done to make sure that both mommy and baby are healthy throughout the period. It also helps us when you access care early, to ensure that we pick up any abnormalities [or] potential problems early, so that [these] can be appropriately managed,” Dr. Spence pointed out.
PROMAC was conceptualized by the Government of Jamaica and is jointly executed by the Ministry of Health and Wellness and the Planning Institute of Jamaica, with European Union funding totalling €22 million.