Whether planned or unplanned, the Western Cape department of health reminds women that help is available to ensure healthy pregnancies and safe motherhood. The department has designated February as Pregnancy Awareness Month to raise awareness and strengthen education around pregnancy.
To kick-off the month-long observance, the Reed Street Community Day Centre hosted a pregnancy education day at the Bellville Reproductive Health Centre, empowering women by providing information about their reproductive health, healthy pregnancies, and contraceptive choices.
During this event, expectant mothers learned the necessary steps for proper prenatal care and access to services that can assist with parenting, termination of pregnancy, or adoption.
Expectant mothers have three main choices to consider: parenting, termination of pregnancy, or adoption. Shirley Brooks, a health promoter, engaged moms on the importance of early booking, a step where a pregnant woman accesses antenatal care before 20 weeks or as soon as she discovers the pregnancy. Antenatal care refers to the healthcare and support one receives at the local clinic during pregnancy.
According to Brooks, early booking has several benefits for both mother and baby. It allows midwives to check the stage of pregnancy, identify any foetal problems, and assess the health of both mother and baby. It also provides free education about pregnancy and baby health.
Early booking has been linked to higher chances of a healthy baby, as complications can be identified and managed early on.
Landi Adolph, an expectant mother who attended the event, said, “I believe that early booking is very important to check on your health and your baby’s health. If anything is wrong, a doctor or nurse can provide treatment to ensure you remain healthy and safe.”
Women who are unsure of early booking or need guidance on what to do when they find out they are pregnant should visit their nearest clinic for information and support. Healthcare workers will help them book an appointment, whether before or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. By booking early, mothers can also connect with other mothers and share their experiences, which can be an excellent source of support during the early stages of pregnancy.
When it comes to termination of pregnancy, trained professionals are available to provide free, non-judgmental information and support at local clinics. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act No. 92 of 1996 gives all women the right to a free termination of pregnancy at a public hospital or clinic during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Olga Sulelo, a professional nurse at the Bellville Reproductive Centre, encourages girls and women not to be afraid to seek help when they have an unplanned pregnancy. By visiting a clinic or the nearest hospital, they can receive confidential counseling to help them make a decision about their pregnancy.
If they decide to terminate the pregnancy, they will be referred to the nearest facility or hospital. Sulelo stresses the importance of avoiding illegal abortions and illegal centres, which can put women’s lives at risk.
Finally, giving a child up for adoption is not always an easy decision, and it requires a lot of thought to ensure that it is in the best interest of the child. Child protection organisations and the department of social development provide guidance and support services to assist throughout the process.
Healthcare workers can link women to social development for support if they are unsure about where to get help. The nearest local office of the department or a child protection organisation can also offer support.
It is important to note that contraceptives can provide freedom and peace of mind to protect oneself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV, and help prevent unintended pregnancies.