Pregnancy Awareness Week, which runs from 10 to 16 February, aims to spread information that promotes healthy pregnancies

Experts say that there is a lack of education about pregnancy in South Africa, which can lead to avoidable complications at birth or long-term developmental challenges for the child. Pregnancy Awareness Week, which runs from 10 to 16 February, aims to spread information that promotes healthy pregnancies.

“Newly pregnant women face a lot of choices – from how to best manage their pregnancy, to which medical professionals to see and where to deliver. Finding information that is accurate and applicable to them can be a challenge,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, an obstetrician and the Head of The Birthing Team, an affordable maternity care programme.

Manyonga highlights four key things that all pregnant women should know:

1. Prenatal care is crucial to a safe delivery

Tests and check-ups during pregnancy are vital to preventing anything from going wrong during childbirth. The risk of premature delivery or an emergency C-section goes up if women do not have adequate prenatal care. Regular visits with a midwife allow for proper monitoring of foetal growth and detection of complications like urinary tract infection which can cause premature delivery.

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Tests and check-ups during pregnancy are vital to preventing anything from going wrong during childbirth

2. Your diet has an impact on your baby

Eating a balanced diet is very important for healthy foetal development, as is avoiding things that can harm the baby such as alcohol, smoking and too many sugary snacks and drinks. Taking prenatal multivitamins is a good way to ensure that your baby is getting what it needs to grow.

3. Costs can be unpredictable

Many women choose to deliver in a private hospital but do not realise that it is impossible to predict their final bill. You need to budget for the possibility of an emergency C-section, extra hospital days and specialist fees. For those who are uninsured, this can be financially crippling.

4. You are protected by labour law

Pregnant women cannot be discriminated against in the workplace or expected to perform any tasks that are damaging to their unborn child, including heavy lifting and exposure to chemicals. More regular bathroom breaks and allowances for morning sickness are written into the constitution. It is illegal to dismiss a woman because she is pregnant.

Good to know: In order to tackle many of the challenges faced by women in South Africa, Dr Manyonga has designed a maternity programme called The Birthing Team, supported by healthcare management company PPO Serve. The Birthing Team makes complete private maternity care affordable for uninsured women by charging an all-inclusive fee that covers all necessary scans, tests, medications, services and assessments from 12 weeks of pregnancy to six weeks after delivery. With a focus on antenatal care and patient education, the teams reduce the risks of preterm delivery and emergency C-sections. The programme is currently operational at Netcare Park Lane in Johannesburg, the Femina Hospital in Pretoria and JMH City Hospital in Durban.