Mothers are flocking in numbers in health facilities to attend antenatal care clinic. This is after intensive efforts to improve maternal health through supplements to avert maternal complications. Now, pregnant mothers have a reason to smile after the government with partners make available Iron and Folic Acid Supplements (IFAS) in all counties for free. The intervention is in bid to address anaemia among women of reproductive lower maternal mortality rates. Stella Kendi did not just listen to an IFAS advert on her favourite TV channel. She took keen interest in what the supplements are all about. What moved her is the song mtoto mwenye afya ni furaha ya mama, imarisha ujauzito wako, with Iron and folic Acid supplements. This message was reinforced in her local language in Dholuo in Radio Ramogi. This motivates her to attend Antenatal Care clinic on schedule.
“In my other pregnancy, I did not take ANC serious. But now I know it is important as mothers are given comprehensive care including Combine iron and Folic acid Supplement to build blood level.” Says Kendi. “The Doctors told us that Iron and Folic Acid is good for pregnancy given that the two micronutrients are combined in one tablet.” I am happy that they are not different tablets making them too many to swallow. For Kendi, ANC is now even better. In her routine check-ups, she also gets information on general health, nutrition- comprehensive care in one visit.
Haemorrhage and anaemia is a leading cause of maternal deaths. The recent Kenya Micronutrient Survey indicated that prevalence of iron –deficiency anaemia among non pregnant women to be 46 percent. Anaemia resulting from iron deficiency is the most common type globally. “Severe shortage of iron is the most common cause of anaemia resulting in lethargy, weakness and feeling faint,’ reads the study in part.
The risk factors of iron deficiency anaemia include low intake of haema iron, consumption of foods with low bio iron, inadequate intake of foods that enhance iron absorption from once diet such as vitamin C among others. With IFAs, the Iron build blood stores, reduce anaemia and the risk of low birth weight, as well as sustaining strength during pregnancy while Folic acid reduce the incident of neural tube defects if taken before one gets pregnant and within 28 days after conception. It also helps in the absorption of iron.
“The Number for ANC attendance has more than doubled since mothers heard of IFAS of TV and Radio a campaign is sponsored by the ministry of health. This is a good thing in that when they attend ANC any complications can be detected early and referrals done if ne, “ Says the Deputy Incharge, Ruiru Prison Training health centre Regine Kiche. “Lately the facility attends to about 46 mothers daily who come for ANC This is a booster for ANCs as a pregnant mother should attend at least four check-ups through pregnancy which is mostly ignored is one does not feel unwell.” Today Kendi come for the supplements. She says in her third semester she is trying to build iron stores for the big day” I want child God has given me to be healthy as I built my iron reserves and stay strong for delivery.” expresses Kendi rubbing her protruding tummy peacefully. Combined Iron and folic acid supplements distributed free of charge in all public health facilities at the ANC clinics. The supplements are given to all women irrespective or their blood level. Since Kendi started taking IFAs her pregnancy has been smooth. She tells The Standard that she is more energised than in her previous pregnancy.
Anaemia is prevalent in malaria prone areas like this area. Malaria tends to deplete iron levels in the body and is a major concern in Kenya. We recommend IFAS to boost iron level, says Elizabeth Chege a registered nurse. Like kendi, many more mothers are currently receiving information on IFAS and required care during pregnancy together with IFAS tablets for every month as a government directive. It is recommended that a mother should take at least 90 tablets during pregnancy. However a tablet daily throughout pregnancy is more meritorious. Women planning to get pregnant are also encouraged to start taking IFAS soonest, advises Chege who works at Ruiru Prisons Staff Training Institute Health Center. It is recommended that the supplements to be taken with meals to reduce the feeling of nausea. Natural iron can be obtained by eating foods and vegetables such as liver, meat, fish, lamb, chicken, spinach, broccoli, managu, Murenda, kale, beans, lentils and peas.