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Maternal Mortality in Ashanti: 216 Lives Lost to Childbirth Complications

Ghana's Health Sector Calls for Urgent Reform as Workshop Highlights Maternal Mental Health Crisis

by Adenike Adeodun

In the Ashanti Region of Ghana last year, a troubling number of 216 women, including healthcare professionals, tragically lost their lives due to complications related to childbirth. This alarming statistic was highlighted by Dr. Emmanuel Tenkorang, the Regional Director of Health, during a workshop in Kumasi aimed at addressing maternal mental health issues among midwives.

The workshop, organized by the Mental Health Authority in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and held as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, emphasized the urgent need for a revised approach towards maternal mortality in Ghana. Dr. Tenkorang critiqued the stagnant strategies that have been employed over the years, stressing that these methods have not effectively reduced maternal mortality rates and that a transformation in policy and practice is imperative.

“Accelerated reduction in maternal death is necessary,” Dr. Tenkorang stated. He reported that approximately 50% of pregnant women experience severe mental crises during pregnancy and up to a year after delivery, highlighting a significant area of concern that requires immediate attention from the health directorate.

The workshop also served as a capacity-building platform for midwives across the region, equipping them with essential skills and knowledge to manage maternal mental health during and after pregnancy. Dr. Tenkorang emphasized the stressful nature of pregnancy and its potential to lead to serious psychiatric conditions if not managed properly.

In response to these challenges, the GHS has implemented a Maternal Mental Health Policy designed to raise awareness among caregivers about mental health conditions related to pregnancy. This policy aims to train caregivers to identify, treat, and manage these conditions promptly to prevent complications.

Dr. Francis Oppong, the Ashanti Regional Psychiatrist, also addressed the critical issue of depression, which is one of the most common mental health conditions associated with pregnancy. He underscored the importance of early detection and treatment to safeguard the lives of expectant mothers. Dr. Oppong advocated for more focused attention on maternal mental health, which has been neglected for too long, leading to preventable tragedies, including deaths from suicide.

He further encouraged the involvement of family members, particularly husbands, to act as support systems for pregnant women, which can play a crucial role in preventing mental health disorders and associated risks.

The Mental Health Authority has designated May as the Mental Health Awareness Month, known as Purple Month, with a special focus on maternal mental health during the first week. This year’s theme, “Movement: moving more for our mental health,” emphasizes the importance of physical activity in enhancing mental well-being.

This initiative is part of a broader effort to address mental health issues in Ghana, where there is a growing recognition of the need to integrate mental health care into general health services and ensure that pregnant women receive the comprehensive care they require.

The alarming rate of maternal deaths in the Ashanti Region calls for a decisive and innovative response to overhaul the existing healthcare strategies. The need for better-equipped facilities, more trained professionals, and an increase in public health funding are critical to improving the outcomes for pregnant women in Ghana.

Furthermore, public education campaigns are essential to change the cultural stigmas surrounding mental health and encourage more women to seek help during pregnancy. The government, along with NGOs and community leaders, must work together to create a supportive environment for expecting mothers, ensuring they have access to the necessary mental health resources.

The significant number of maternal deaths in Ghana due to childbirth complications is a pressing issue that requires immediate action. Through revised healthcare strategies, enhanced caregiver training, and robust community support systems, Ghana can improve maternal health outcomes and reduce the unnecessary loss of life, ensuring that pregnancy and childbirth are safe and joyful experiences for all women.

Source: Graphic Online

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