Adesua Oni is a registered nurse and midwife. In this interview by ADEOLA OTEMADE, she discusses the issues facing pregnant women, the factors responsible for maternal mortality and how the government can provide a better health care system for the people.
Who is Adesua Oni?
Adesua Oni is a registered nurse and midwife, a wife and mother of two children. I am the founder of Pregnancy Support Foundation, a non-governmental organisation which has a vision to contribute its quota to reduce maternal mortality by providing physical, psychological, social and spiritual support to pregnant women and women trying to conceive. I am also the founder of The Stepped-up Nurse Academy with a vision of building up nurses for extraordinary impact.
How have you been able to balance family, work and running the foundation?
Balancing family, work and running the foundation has been very challenging. I have to work thrice as hard as an average nurse so that everything can work out fine. I maximize my night hours and have great ability to multitask. This ability actually made the name Mega-woman gets stuck to my DNA till date.
What challenges would you say is facing Nigerian pregnant woman?
The challenges facing the average pregnant woman are numerous. Based on my years of experience and closer relationship with them this year, I have discovered that ignorance is the biggest challenge facing the average pregnant woman In Nigeria. Many of them do not have the information regarding pregnancy health, while a few others have half information or wrong information. They also choose to look for health solutions in the wrong places because they are ignorant of the far reaching effect a simple wrong turn can mean in the nearest future. This is why pregnancy Support teaches daily (using posts, live videos, YouTube videos, podcasts and E-books) on social media to enlighten more and more women and men. Our Facebook groups are inclusive of men because we know that husbands and fathers also need to know these things, so as to adequately support their wives in pregnancy and after.
Another major challenge the average pregnant woman in Nigeria faces is one of inadequate finance or low socioeconomic status. So many pregnant women do not even have jobs or any form of gainful employment to support themselves in pregnancy. They depend solely on their husbands who may be more focused on other projects than investing in the health of his wife. If he has more than one wife, the man has more mouths to feed and therefore may not provide his wife access optimal healthcare. Because I discovered that some major decisions rest on the husband, I wrote extensively about husband participation in maternal health in my book, Pregnancy Support published in April this year. Because of finances too, so many women would rather put their lives at risk and say no to caesarean section because they cannot afford the extra bills for surgery. This challenge is a strong reason I wrote and published my second book, CAESAREAN SECTION to enlighten women and their husbands about the pros and cons of saying yes or no to caesarean section.
How do you feel the government can improve the health care system for pregnant women?
The government should invest in paying midwives more because this is the only specialty where two lives are involved directly and both can be lost if the midwife is not capable. They should equip our state and teaching hospitals with better facilities so that optimal care can be given. Ambulances in these hospitals should also be equipped well enough to convey pregnant women living in far locations safely from their homes to the hospital. Many die due to lack of accessibility or delay in accessing health care services. Hospital labour ward should be equipped with facilities to ensure privacy during labour. Cubicles or screens can be provided so each woman can feel comfortable with exposing self and their husbands will be allowed to stay with them during labour and delivery.
When did you start Pregnancy Support Foundation?
Pregnancy Support started February 12th, 2021 and was 100 pwedent online and so far we have been able to impact increasing number of pregnant women across social media, majorly Facebook. Presently our facebook community is made up of about 2600 women and men of childbearing age.We also educate women and indirectly, their men on Whatsapp, Instagram and Linkedin. On Whatsapp, I started the VIP-MUMS Academy in March for which women pay a token of 500-2000 monthly for more up-close training and teaching on topics surrounding pregnancy. I have been meeting with challenges, many of which are rooted in manpower and finances. So far I have been running the whole enterprise with my salary.
What are the challenges the foundation had been encountering since its inception?
Finance has been the greatest challenge since inception. Managing the social media pages where teaching goes on daily is very expensive. Presently we are planning to launch a medical outreach to Ifaka local government, Mando, Kaduna State, but the major constraints has been funding. For one month we have been reaching out to people to sponsor this outreach but responses have been low. Everyone complains of the socioeconomic situation in the country. We also have the challenge of encouraging pregnant women to listen and utilise the teachings done on our social media platforms namely: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Our VIP Mums Academy and Facebook community also needs funding to run smoothly. So far, I have been running the foundation with my paycheck as a nurse. As we speak, my salary can no longer conveniently run the NGO.
Can you give statistics on the mortality rate of pregnant women recorded this year?
Maternal Mortality rate recorded in Nigeria in the year 2020 was 814 in every 100,000 live births according to World Health Organisation (WHO). I don’t have the statistics for 2021 just yet but I believe it would have further dropped. Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in several low-and-middle-income countries is alarming, with about 34% of global maternal deaths occurring in Nigeria and India alone. The lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is 1 in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4900.
Why nursing and Midwifery?
Nursing was chosen for me by my parents. But before the end of my first year, I began to find purpose in it and grew to love the profession despite its many challenges. I chose midwifery because I was always thrilled and excited about every new life I birthed while I worked in a private hospital as a fresh registered nurse.
What advice do you have for women as regards staying healthy during pregnancy?
Staying health during pregnancy is a whole bulk of teaching. But in summary, I would advice every pregnant woman to have a pregnancy support coach or managing midwife. This midwife will be a go-to medic whenever she has complaints and has questions. This service can be provided on social media using the cheapest platform which is Whatsapp. Pregnant women can get connected to their obstetricians and midwives online and seek help faster just like I do for my clients at Pregnancy Support foundation. If this happens, she would have access to all information she needs to stay healthy in pregnancy.