Exclusive: Hygiene dubbed crucial for healthy pregnancy

KABUL (SW) – In a series of interviews, a number of women said they could not maintain healthy hygiene during pregnancies that led to complications and serious health issues.  

Pregnancy is a critical phase requiring special care to ensure the health of both mother and fetus. During this time, women experience significant physical changes that can affect their health and quality of life during and after pregnancy.

Many women in Afghanistan, especially in remote areas, face the risk of losing their lives and their children due to factors such as inadequate spacing between births, unhealthy nutrition, lack of proper healthcare, and limited access to medical services.

In conversation with Salam Watandar, 33 women from various provinces reported not receiving adequate care during and after pregnancy. Some of these women mentioned losing their children due to lack of proper prenatal care and now suffer from physical and mental illnesses themselves.

Among the 33 interviewed women, six reported losing their children due to inadequate prenatal care, one gave birth to a disabled child, and 26 others have faced various physical ailments as a result of inadequate healthcare during pregnancy.

In this report, 11 of the interviewees cited low awareness, eight mentioned economic hardships, and 14 others highlighted the burden of strenuous work as reasons they did not receive proper care during pregnancy.

Marina, a mother of five, shared her tragic experience of losing her child four months ago due to neglect and lack of healthcare during and after pregnancy. She lamented, “I couldn’t go to the clinic; when I felt my child coming, I was doing laundry. They took me to the clinic, but I lost my child. If I had known that strenuous work could harm me or my child, I wouldn’t have done those tasks.”

Fariba, a 30-year-old mother of four, also recounted losing her child due to medication use during pregnancy. She explained, “I had severe headaches and used strong medications, not realizing I was pregnant. My child was lost due to medication and negligence.”

During pregnancy, women require healthy nutrition and regular medical care to ensure their own health and the well-being of their children. Among the women interviewed for this report, eight cited economic difficulties and lack of access to healthy nutrition as reasons they struggled during pregnancy.

Guljan, a mother of five, explained how economic problems prevented her from receiving proper nutrition during pregnancy, resulting in her child being born underweight. She said, “A week after childbirth, I started embroidery and my endured much pressure; my vision weakened. I should have rested closer to childbirth, but doctors didn’t allow it. My child was born very weak because I couldn’t nourish myself properly.”

Muzhda shared her experience of economic struggles leading to inadequate care during pregnancy and an emergency cesarean section. “I didn’t have enough sleep or proper food. I worked from morning till night and sometimes even through the night. I was very weak and my milk dried up. My child, who was already sick and weak from birth, was deprived of breast milk.”

Many women in Afghanistan, especially in remote areas, are engaged in strenuous work and lack access to proper care during and after pregnancy.

Hangama, a resident of Pashtun Kot in Faryab province and mother of two, tragically lost her fetus at five months due to heavy labor. She recounted, “I live in a village where I did a lot of hard work during pregnancy. One day, due to heavy work, I had bleeding and eventually lost my child.”

Zahra, from Kunduz, described her difficult pregnancy while carrying bricks, which led to severe complications. “I was six months pregnant and carrying bricks. When carrying the bricks to the other side of the yard, I felt pain. I faced many problems and endured the pain for a day. When I went to the doctor, said I had done heavy work.”

Furthermore, 26 women reported not receiving necessary care during pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in various health issues now affecting them.

Shogofa, 30, mentioned suffering from back pain due to lack of proper healthcare: “During pregnancy, I didn’t have regular sleep or proper nutrition, and I had to do hard work. Now, I suffer from back pain.”

Sakina, a mother of five, also shared her struggles: “I have back pain, headaches, and my nerves are quickly strained. Some days, I feel weak. If I had realized and had someone to help me during pregnancy or afterward, I wouldn’t have these illnesses.”

Considering all aspects in mind, health experts assert that women must receive regular care during pregnancy so that the health of the mother and her child are not at risk.

Sunita Bahram, an obstetrician, says that if mothers do not receive proper care, it can cause death in addition to abortion. She adds: “A pregnant woman should be taken care of, even six months before pregnancy, she should start all preparations so that the pregnancy process can proceed properly. If the health care is not proper, the pregnancy could be terminated in the first trimester and the fetus may be aborted. Or if the fetus may not develop properly and the child might be underweight and born prematurely.”

According to the report of the World Health Organization, Afghanistan is one of the countries with a high maternal mortality rate, and every two hours a woman in Afghanistan dies during pregnancy or childbirth.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Public Health confirm that in the last five months, some 300 women in Afghanistan have died during childbirth, which shows a decrease compared to previous years.

Sharafat Zaman, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Public Health, says that women not visiting medical centers during pregnancy is one of the main causes of maternal and child mortality. He adds: “The figures presented by the World Health Organization are not correct. The Ministry of Public Health has provided services for women and some 350 new hospitals have been upgraded with gynaecology departments while 288 more hospitals are planned to be built for mothers.”

Pregnancy is one of the sensitive periods for women that require special care. Many pregnant women in Afghanistan are deprived of this due to various reasons, including low level of literacy, economic disability, lack of access to health care services and healthy nutrition.