Elyne Kaingu, a 33-year old mother benefitted from Intermittent Preventive Treatment during her second pregnancy.
Elyne Kaingu, a 33-year old mother from the beautiful Mnarani area of Kilifi County, overlooking the Indian Ocean, was extremely wary during her first pregnancy about the silent killer in her midst – malaria. She knew some other first time mothers had fallen ill with the disease, and had even lost their babies or had premature births.
“I had to be very careful, given the pain caused by the disease to first time mothers, which I had witnessed,” recounts the homemaker, who was born and raised in Kilifi.
For example, she was aware of the complications that might arise from maternal aneamia attributable to malaria.
Kaingu therefore took extra precautions by seeking medical advice from the village antenatal care (ANC) clinic, “where I was given iron and folic acid tablets, that prevented anemia while helping the development of the baby,” she says.
She was one of the lucky first-time mothers who had a successful and safe birth.
Receiving IPTp kept Elyne safe from malaria
When she became pregnant for a second time in 2018, she discovered something that allowed her to feel even more reassured.
During a prenatal check at the Mafumbini Dispensary she heard about the fact that Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy (IPTp) could help protect mothers and their babies from malaria, and she decided to take the treatment.
“For every [ANC] clinic visit, I was given the malaria medicine which had to be taken at the dispensary before leaving for home,” Kaingu said, recalling the trips she made from the second trimester onward.
There are good reasons for requiring the treatment be done at the clinic, she says, explaining that since the medicine sometimes causes nausea, some women might not take it within the confines of their homes.
Even so, she made sure to arrive at the clinic with a good meal in her stomach. “It was not advisable to take the medicine on an empty stomach, according to the advice of the clinicians,” she says, explaining this helped ward off possible nausea.
During her visits, she was provided with an insecticide-treated mosquito net: “Up until that time, I was using an ordinary, untreated mosquito net in my home.”
Other benefits included being tested for breast cancer; advice on breastfeeding and on saving money specifically to meet the needs of the newborn baby. Finally, there was the assurance that she could remain safe from malaria.
“The treatment and the clinic visits have been beneficial to me and my baby, because I have never been attacked by malaria,” says Kaingu.
Many women now avoid visiting the clinic because of COVID 19
Just like many mothers in her community, Kaingu also has been more wary of visiting the clinic for routine care for fear of COVID-19. “Honestly, I stopped going to the clinic, unless my child fell ill,” she says.
However, she remains keenly aware of how important IPTp treatment is to pregnant women, even in the coronavirus period, and is actively encouraging other women to seek it.
She now volunteers to mobilize women in her community whenever there is a health-related drive in her village.
She notes that malaria remains a huge concern, “especially at this time, when we are experiencing a lot of rains.” Mothers like her are particularly vigilant as spikes in early childhood mortality from malaria have been observed.
In speaking out about the issues, Kaingu is also a model to other women – some of whom may still be fearful about getting treatment, but also fearful about speaking out about the risks. Indeed, malaria in pregnancy remains a traumatic issue to talk about among women in Kilifi – as there are more than a few women who have suffered the tragic consequences.
Kaingu says more action is still needed:
“Even though a lot of effort has been made in encouraging expectant women to visit health facilities and seek ANC services, I think more still need to be done to sensitize this population group in the community, on the importance of guarding against malaria in pregnancy.”