The local health sector is looking to considerably lessen the prevalence of teenage pregnancy to help reduce its maternal
mortality rate. According to Chief Medical Officer, Dr Shamdeo Persaud, moves, including a fervent education drive, have already been engaged in this regard.
While there have been some evident gains, Dr Persaud is hopeful that Guyana will see even greater results in the near future. He alluded to a recent report out of the United States of America which suggests that the teenage pregnancy rate there has been reduced by four-fold over the last 10 years.
And according to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Guyana can realise similar results, even as he revealed that to bolster local efforts the Health Ministry has, for instance, been directing efforts towards expanding its contraceptive programme.
Dr Persaud, who was at the time responding to a query from this publication regarding the moves being made by the Health Ministry to arrest the maternal mortality rate, acknowledged that “teenage or children pregnancy is something we are hoping to reduce because they are at a very high risk of developing complications and dying also.” And according to Dr Persaud, Guyana has recorded girls as young as 12 giving birth.
However, he disclosed that based on the health sector’s data there has been a decrease in the number of girls under 16 becoming pregnant and giving birth. Currently, the reported percentage for under-16 mothers stands at .5 per cent.
But according to Dr Persaud, there are still some young mothers between the age group of 16 and 19, which is still very worrying. This latter category of teenage mothers, he noted, translates to about two per cent of all pregnancies seen at a national level by the health sector. “We hope to see this brought down…Of course this will go well for women’s health in general, because it would not only allow girls and women to be able to access education, but also help them to have their own careers develop and so on without the interference of a pregnancy,” Dr Persaud added.
In helping to reduce potential maternal complications and by extension maternal deaths, the CMO revealed that the Health Ministry has been relying heavily on the support of communities in its quest to address maternal concerns.
He disclosed that currently the Ministry has groups operating in some vulnerable communities. And groups, he noted, could be made up of religious members who could render their support simply by checking on pregnant mothers to ensure that they keep their clinic dates in order to get their vaccines, get relevant tests, and take all necessary precautions to safeguard themselves and unborn child.
According to Dr Persaud too, “one of the biggest issues in the rural areas is to have women deliver within a health institution and by a health professional.”
“We have reduced the occurrence of unattended deliveries to less than four per cent, but there are still a few women out there who deliver at home for one reason or another, but we would really like to see a lot more women delivered by professionals in facilities that are equipped.”
Moreover, Dr Persaud disclosed the Ministry has been partnering with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to put in place infrastructure such as maternal waiting homes, especially for those pregnant women from interior locations, who might require expert care during their pregnancies.
“We have pre-empted this with women who, for example, are at their fifth pregnancies, and are going into that period of multiple deliveries,” said Dr Persaud as he underscored the potential risk a woman could encounter at this point of her life.
“It is for this reason we bring them out to a point where they can access the Georgetown Public Hospital or one of the hospitals that might have caesarean section facilities or blood that can be transfused if the need arises,” Dr Persaud noted.
Other high-risk groups that the health sector has been paying keen attention to, he explained, are those pregnant women over the age of 35 who could be equally at risk as those under 16. Guyana during the past year recorded a total of 18 maternal deaths, and according to the CMO the aim of the Health Ministry is to reduce this to no more than 11 per annum.
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