The government of Rwanda recognized that health and population growth are important factors in its economic development.
Under the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP), areas of critical concern were identified and possible solutions suggested.
One of the strategies set by the department of Maternal and Child health at the Rwanda Bio-Medical Center to reduce the maternal mortality rate is advising men to actively take part during their wives pregnancy and delivery.
According to Arthur Asiimwe, Director General in charge of Communications at the Rwanda Bio-Medical Centre, encouraging men to get involved in health matters concerning their expectant wives includes going with them for antenatal care.
“It’s important for men to take the initiative before and after their wives give birth. This includes; encouraging them to feed well during pregnancy, taking her to give birth at a proper health centre and generally giving her all the care she deserves,” said Asiimwe.
He further adds that when men get involved, issues such as family planning are easily addressed.
“With men getting involved in pregnancy and birth, they understand the obligation of family planning. It ceases to be the woman‘s role but a joint initiative,” Asiimwe explains.
Birth awareness and maternity services such as antenatal care can reduce the number of women who die while giving birth.
Fortunee Kamanyana, a registered midwife in charge of antenatal care at King Faisal Hospital, outlined the few limitations men face and reasons why they hardly escort their wives for antenatal and pre-natal check-ups.
“About 50 percent of men come for a few check-ups with their spouses during antenatal care. The reasons the women give us for their husbands not being around for checkups are work related, most say they work upcountry,” Kamanyana explains.
She further suggested that employers should grant permission to men who have expectant wives so that they can accompany them for a few antenatal checkups.
“In most cases we only get to see the couple during the HIV/AIDS testing sessions since its compulsory for the expecting couple. We shifted the testing session from 5:00 p.m to 9:00 p.m and they indeed show up in big numbers. This is because in the evenings, they have finished work,” Kamanyana said.
If the percentage of women who go for at least four antenatal check-ups with their husbands increases, then the maternal mortality rate will reduce.
In case of emergencies, men who have attended antenatal classes with their wives will not be caught off guard.
Adeline Muhoza, Public Relations Officer of King Faisal Hospital, says when both couples attend the monthly antenatal care check-ups their parenting bond is strengthened.
“It prepares the couple psychologically. And men usually get excited and want to know every bit of the process; this is something that instils strength in the woman,” Muhoza explains.
Muhoza had her first child six months ago and she acknowledges the fact that her husband’s presence on the day she had her baby was heartening.
“I was kind of stressed but my husband asked if he could be with me in the labour ward and I accepted. The whole process is painful but having a loved one besides you during that moment is strengthening,” Muhoza said.
The fact that some men are involved during pregnancy and the delivery of their children indicates a sense of responsibility, equality and respect for their spouses. All men need to follow suit, not just to show support, but to also be a part of the early life of their children.