Men: How they matter (in maternal and child health)

Dear Readers,

This week (15th May), we celebrated the International Day of Families. This day is about celebrating families and recognizing that family as a unit plays an important role in healthcare.  Especially in the care of children and the elderly.  We all know that mothers have a crucial role to play in the wellbeing of the family. Hence, many programs have been developed to ensure optimal maternal health. But recently, these programs have recognized that the men have an equally essential role to play. Hence, they have sought to include men in these programs.

So, today I dedicate this post to the Men. Because it is important that you understand the role you need to play for the survival of the mother and child. I did a small survey a few months ago on what aspect of health people were most interested in learning. And I realized something. An abysmally low number of men were interested in learning about maternal and child care. This was not surprising. It only confirmed the fact that the role to maintain health of every member of the family is the mother’s.

I am going to use this post to discuss several aspects of maternal and child health that the man needs to play an active role in and what you should do for your partner.

Pregnancy

When your partner is pregnant, please make things easier for her. This means, do not ask her to make pounded yam. This means, do not be a source of stress to her. This means, do not smoke around her or at home. This means, do not call her fat and ugly and make her depressed.

These actions make her and the baby more vulnerable to various health problems including hypertension (which is really bad for a pregnant woman), low birth weight and poor brain development of the baby.

Instead be a source of comfort and relaxation. Encourage her to exercise (for her health and baby’s) and join her. And when she sits, kindly get a stool, so she can rest her feet.

Antenatal visits               

Men, when she wants to go for antenatal visits, please let her. Do not complain about how things are more difficult for you because she has to leave home. Or because you have to drop her at the clinic or pay for her transportation. Do not discourage her by saying it is a waste of time and all she does at the clinic is gossip. Do not come back from work and scold her because your food is not ready, when you know she went for an antenatal visit and spent all day there (long queues).

Do you know what you should do? Go with her. Find the time and show support because it is your baby as well. If you cannot go with her, encourage her.

During antenatal visits, underlying health conditions that may affect mother and child are detected, treated or managed.  Therefore, antenatal visits ensure that she is a healthy pregnant woman.

Exclusive breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding is when a new born baby is given only breast milk for the first six months and nothing else. Not even water. When she wants to do this and your mother is insisting that she gives the baby some water or “agbo” to drink, Please do not say to your wife, “Mama is right. After all she didn’t exclusively breastfeed me and I turned out okay.” Well your child should have a better opportunity than you, right?Don’t stay on the sidelines and believe it is not your problem. Support your partner.

Exclusive breastfeeding has several benefits. It is cheaper. It provides the baby with utmost immunity, and thus prevents infections like diarrhea which could be fatal. It gives the baby a higher IQ. So you save costs and get smarter and healthier children. It also helps the mother in losing weight and preventing several cancers amongst several other benefits.

Family planning or Birth spacing

A lecturer of mine once said “If men took an active part in child rearing, then we wouldn’t need to promote family planning. It would be a normal occurrence”. She made a very valid point. Although, motherhood is a blessing and an honour, we cannot deny that pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding are extremely exhausting and challenging.

Every pregnancy is a risk. That is why one should minimize the amount of time the woman is exposed to that risk. Furthermore, proper birth spacing of two years is needed to ensure the body heals before having to go through pregnancy again. It is also essential to produce a healthy baby. Because the mother’s body is properly healed and ready to cater to another fetus.

So please, don’t insist that you want a soccer team for children. Show some humanity and pity your wife.

Child immunization and health care

Mums are usually responsible for bringing the children for immunization. I believe if fathers decide to take an active part, more children will be immunized. If you do not want your wife to leave the house, why don’t you take the child for immunization instead?

For some women, they are unable to take their children to the hospital because they cannot leave home. What happens when there is an emergency? You lose the child and blame the mother. Why can’t you take your child to the hospital, regardless? You are also a parent, right?

Finally,

Men, do not mock other men who decide to support their wives. Do not laugh at them because they decided to go to antenatal visits with their wives. It is not “unmanly”. For those who are mocked, or will be, please do not care.

You are the better man. Because at the end of the day, your family is what is important.

Here is to better husbands, better fathers, and better men.

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