Tariro Mlambo (36) was eight months pregnant; discomfort became a daily routine for her. It kept increasing and she could not sleep as it became unbearable prompting her husband to take her to hospital.
By Rutendo Bamu
At the hospital, Mlambo was told the discomforts were a sign of pregnancy induced hypertension commonly referred to preeclampsia in medical terms. Unfortunately the high blood pressure had affected the fetus as a scan conducted on her revealed that there was no life in the womb.
“The doctor confirmed the baby died due to high blood pressure (Bp). I had discomforts feeling hot as well as swollen legs. It is unfortunate for me because I had been expecting a baby boy and fate would have it this way” said Mlambo
Preeclampsia is defined as pregnancy induced hypertension which if not managed properly would affect both the mother and the fetus.
Dr. Onias Muregi a Harare based gynecologist, said preeclampsia is a disease where some women develop high blood pressure in pregnancy. He said it affects the kidney, making the victim have protein in her urine.
“It is a disease of hypertension and proteinuria. It is a disease that a woman will not have usually since she is not hypertensive; she develops the disease around the 20th week of pregnancy,” he said.
Dr. Muregi said pregnancy is usually for 40 weeks or nine months. But, halfway into pregnancy, the woman may develop high blood pressure and this can also affect the kidney.
Pregnancy induced hypertension according to another gynecologist Dr. Regis Mutandwa affects those in the extreme reproductive ages, that is pregnant adolescent young girls or women who delay child bearing.
“It normally affects young women and those who are above 35 years including those who delay child bearing. There is no cure to preeclampsia except to manage the pregnancy in its early stages till delivery. That is the reason why people need to book early so that nurses would monitor the pregnancy” he said
According to the United Nations global estimates 303 000 women are dying yearly as a result of complications arising from pregnancy. This equates to 830 women dying each day and 30% of maternal deaths in Zimbabwe are due to hypertension
A study carried by Solwayo Ngwenya from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mpilo Central Hospital revealed that most of maternal mortality rate in Zimbabwe are due to hypertension and the condition could be prevented if the women received the right medical care throughout their pregnancy.
“In Zimbabwe, preeclampsia is the third leading causes of death after AIDS-defining conditions and postpartum hemorrhage. The results show that the cases were predominantly of severe preeclampsia (78.5%). The incident of severe preeclampsia was 1.3% at Mpilo Central Hospital.” Said Ngwenya
High Blood Pressure, Dr. Muregi says, “In most cases it leads to Preeclampsia which is hard to manage, has no cure besides baby delivery and it often leads to death”
Speaking during a radio programme Dr. Bernard Madzima highlighted that various stages of hypertension and loss of life can be prevented if treatment is accessed on time hence failure by women to have regular checkups during pregnancy may result in serious complications.
Urging women to know the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia on pregnant women he stated some of them which includes abnormal swelling of hands, face and feet, persistent headaches, having changes in vision, upper abdominal pain, nausea and difficulty breathing, however he stated that sometimes the symptoms of hypertension on pregnant women can be unnoticed.
Research conducted by the World Health Organisation found out those complications in pregnancy were the biggest killer globally of girls aged 15 to 19 with hypertension among the main causes since their bodies are not fully developed and ready to give birth.
In Zimbabwe government efforts to reduce maternal death are being hampered by religious beliefs with some churches discouraging hospital treatment. As a result most deaths related to pregnancy are not accounted for.
They rely mostly on unprofessional traditional birth attendants which further complicates their situation. Government has carried out various dialogues with religious leaders to try and convince them allow women to seek treatment.
Dr. Madzima highlighted that the Government through the Ministry of Health and Child Care have a holistic approach which is focused antenatal care where they check for sugar urinalysis, Bp, fetal growth and for those found with abnormal blood pressure; they keep them at maternity waiting homes for monitoring.
He also noted that by investing in programs which increase knowledge in terms of signs and symptoms, early bookings and target induced hypertension the maternal mortality rate can be reduced by 20%.