By Gifty Arthur
Ghana, joined the rest of the world on Monday May 22, 2017, to mark this year’s International Day of Preeclampsia, a disorder during pregnancy as a result of high blood pressure and a significant amount of protein.
First of its kind in Ghana, the day which was marked at the 37 Military Hospital in Accra, was themed “Be Prepared before lightening Strikes” with it accompanying slogan “Know the Symptoms Spread the Word”.
The day was used to create awareness of the condition which according to available figures affects 2-8 percent of pregnancies globally. The event was also used to launch the Ghana Action on Pre-eclampsia Campaign (GHAPEC) under the auspices of the Centre for Constitutional Order (CENCORD).
GHAPEC is to educate, inform and advise the population most importantly pregnant women and health professionals, about the prevalence, nature and risks, to create greater awareness and action to improve methods of early detection and treatment, promote research into the causes of the disease and appropriate screening techniques and treatment methods.
In partnership with other health bodies, volunteers will be recruited to begin the campaign nationwide through a series of programmes to actively promote the symptoms of pre-eclampsia among women.
Globally, the condition and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death resulting in 76, 000 maternal and 500, 000 infant death yearly.
Additional information on pre-eclampsia say hypertension disorder of pregnancy is, one of the most common causes of death due to pregnancy. In 2015, a whooping 46, 900 deaths were recorded.
It usually occurs after 32 weeks but if it occurs earlier, it is associated with worse outcomes including death. In pregnant women, it causes seizures leading to death while in babies, premature death is recorded.
Though it causes are not yet known, symptoms have been diagnosed as unending severe headache, changes in vision, weight gain of more than 5 pounds in one week, difficulty in breathing, gasping or panting, upper right belly pain, nausea after mid-pregnancy, swelling of the face and hand.
Speaking at the launch, the Director General, Ghana Aids Commission Dr. Mokowa Adu-Gyamfi said the education and awareness of the life threatening disease must be intensified to save lives of pregnant women and babies.
She said it is important pregnant women take the symptoms of the condition seriously and also take precaution by attending antenatal clinics to ensure their Blood Pressure (BP), test urine for protein level, liver and kidney function tests and weight monitoring.
According to Dr Adu-Gyamfi, the misconception about weight gaining as a sign of good living should be discarded especially by pregnant women as it is one of the symptoms of the condition. The Aids Commission boss said, in Ghana there are 319 deaths out of 100, 000 live births recorded in 2015.
She proposed some solutions to be adopted during the campaign to get the public well educated and aware of pre-eclampsia. She listed them as, girl child or health education in schools, access to health care facilities, training of health care professionals, women empowerment and research saying “Health institutions across the country should be funded to conduct studies on preeclampsia”.
Executive Director CENCORD, Solomon Osei Fosu said, his outfit which is dedicated to the advancing and protecting, the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, had to veer off it primary mandate after one of their fellows, suffered both preeclampsia and eclampsia twice between 2012 and March 2017.
He said a survey was conducted by CONCORD and the outcome showed that out of 500 women surveyed in Accra from age 20-35, only 2 percent had heard of the disease and read something about it. Mr. Osei Fosu said 5 percent said they had heard the name but didn’t know what it meant while a staggering 93 percent said they know nothing about it.
CENCORD following this revelation aside the campaign to educate and create the awareness, will be working to liaison with public hospitals nationwide to donate blood pressure monitors to pregnant women in a one pregnant woman one blood pressure monitor faction.
He called on all stakeholders including water producers to support them with bottled water to provide to pregnant women as experts it helps to reduce pressure. Project Lead, GHAPEC and Fellow CENCORD Koiwah Koi-Larbi Ofosuapea, who less than 30 years, has had to lose two pregnancies as a result of preeclampsia and eclampsia, shared her experience with the gathering.
Speaking with very sad memories Mrs. Koi-Larbi Ofosuapea said “I am a mother of one, still under 30 years old and have suffered under the fatal and cruel menace of the pregnancy disorder preeclampsia and eclampsia.
Twice my husband and I have had to bury our two sons. My own life has been at risk because of this disease. I say we cannot and will not go through this anymore for the fear and mental anguish is unbearable, she said.