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Oct 11, 2012

Healthy Living gets prenatal care

A part of Millennium Development Goal Number four is to reduce the rate of infant mortality.  That is bringing down the number of babies that die before they reach one year of age. Currently, Belize has a rate of twenty-one deaths per thousand live births. As a part of reducing this number, the Central Health Region has embarked on a campaign to encourage women to seek their first prenatal visit within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. In this week’s segment of Healthy Living, we look at the importance of the process called Early Booking.


Dr. Karl Jones, General Practitioner, Matron Roberts Health Center

“That’s the most delicate period of pregnancy. Because it it’s the time of the pregnancy because at that the stage the vital organs of the embryo are being developed.”


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

The first trimester of a pregnancy considered one the most delicate times for an expecting mother. The rapid changes in the mother coupled with major developments in the embryo makes the need for proper care in the first twelve weeks of absolute importance. The Central Health Region has embarked on a campaign to encourage young expecting mothers to check in at the clinic within the first twelve weeks for what they call early booking.


Dr. Karl Jones

“That first phase of pregnancy is extremely critical for the follow-through of pregnancy and many things need to be detected very early in pregnancy, it can be dealt with and mothers can have a more favorable outcome of their pregnancy.”


Karl Jones

Dr. Jones is one of several doctors working with the Ministry of Health in the Central Health Region. In his experience at Matron Roberts Clinic, he has encountered mother’s who have presented with complications at delivery that could have been prevented.


Dr. Karl Jones

 “Some of the more common entities that we pick up here in the clinic are like urinary tract infection. Which are very common in pregnant woman and for the most part treatable we also pick up vaginal infections, also treatable here in the clinics. The other conditions which would probably have a greater effect on the mother are like anemia which is a low blood count and those have to be picked up very early in pregnancy and best when it is picked up early and treated accordingly. A mother’s blood count would normally drop during pregnancy but we have to gauge that drop to make sure that it’s not below what was supposed to happen. Other issues are high blood pressure; it is important that it is detected very early in pregnancy; a mother’s blood pressure period needs to be gauged from earlier on in pregnancy in order to see if there are any changes any increases later on in pregnancies cause that could seriously complicate pregnancies. That’s one of the leading causes of maternal deaths actually.”


Other conditions like diabetes can be properly managed to avoid complications later on in the pregnancy. Early booking is not only to detect possible risk factors but also to ensure the mother’s nutrition and body is in optimal condition for pregnancy. This would include the provisions of supplements.


Dr. Karl Jones

“The reason why so much emphasis is placed on folic acid is because folic acid important for the proper development of the central nervous system and of course that is being developed during that very critical period which is actually the most critical period is within the first eight weeks of pregnancy.”


While the majority of women ensure too visit a doctor or clinic before the end of the first trimester there are still too many who don’t.


Dr. Karl Jones

“Rough figures would be that women come before the twelve weeks for early booking at a rate at about seventy percent or so. We would aim to have that much higher.  It is still common though for women to show up much later than that and it is still common for the woman to show up for delivery and that delivery will be their first medical encounter. From what I’ve seen in many cases is that a lot of women really have had previous children before and in many cases they feel that they understand how this thing – they know how this things works very well. So they give less importance to coming to clinic. Some of them also come because they say they don’t have money which in reality not much finance is need to for a mother to come to the clinic for booking and to get her follow through.”


The first medical checkup includes everything from checking the vital signs medical history, lab tests, experience in previous pregnancies and a physical exam as well as physiological assessment of the expecting mother. Also, crucial is an HIV test.


Dr. Karl Jones

“If the mother is HIV positive treatment can be started early and the way things are treated nowadays babies can be born of mothers who are positive and those babies can be born without infection once the mother has gone through treatment during the course of her pregnancy.”


The general advice is to visit the clinic as soon as you suspect you are pregnant even if it is just to take the pregnancy test. Early signs of pregnancy include: a missed period, unexplained fatigue, sensitivity to smells, nausea and vomiting, frequent urination and possibly shortness of breath.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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