Pregnancy and Stress
The African culture expects women to become good mothers and wives and they are trained for this at a very young age. Many young girls do not go to school because societal norms requires them to learn how to cook, please their husbands and raise their children. While, ideologies changed and women have more autonomy, women are still expected to be child-bearing machines. The inevitable fact is that African culture still expects some African women to take care of the home and bear children without complaining.
A major risk factor for African Women during Pregnancy
The social norms is that women and girls focus on their family and they forget to take care of themselves. Self-care is not a priority and their husbands often makes them feel guilty for wanted to take time for themselves. Women are also not given space to complain because it is believed that it’s their duty as a woman. The women who want to complain are not taken seriously because other women do even more without complaining.
Poverty is another issue marginalized women experience. In Sierra Leone, most poor women survive on one dollar a day. Women are mainly responsible for preparing food and often worry about how to put resources together for cook. The hardship of providing a home, healthcare and clothing takes a toll on women. Over time, the buildup of worry, hardship and living up to other people’s expectations takes a toll on the mental health of women. This build up is called stress and can be a silent killer, especially for pregnant women.
Stress and Pregnancy
With all the stress African women go through; taking care of the home and the children, do you still expect them to carry a pregnancy in good health? The fact is that most of these poor African women do a lot of manual chores and this stresses them a lot. There’s usually no one in the house to assist them, their husband don’t see the need to do “woman’s work”. A lot of women work until they go into labor and usually perform strenuous activities that strains themselves and the baby. It is common to see a woman lifting a heavy basket on their heads full of vegetables and fruits for miles while pregnant in the hot sun. It is even common for women to be pregnant to be selling their vegetables on their head in the hot sun with a baby on their backs. Cortisol hormones are released while performing hard tasks and this causes stress. Now stress causes the following health issues for pregnant women.
Stress Related Complications while Pregnant
High-blood pressure is a major risk factor for pregnant women, particularly from stress. Preeclampsia is a form of high blood pressure during pregnancy and can lead to serious complications if left untreated. Preeclampsia undiagnosed could harm the baby and also harm the mother. It could even lead to death. Stress that turns into high blood pressure can also lead to premature delivery. Given the health care system is subpar in many parts of Africa, a premature delivery may require a cesarean which are only perform by skilled medical personnel. When emergency obstetric care is not performed, it can be life threatening for mother and child.
Remaining Healthy While Pregnant
1) African women need antenatal care for health screening and ensure the health of the baby. Preventative care is essential for positive health outcomes.
2) Women should reduce physical activities for prolong hours to reduce stress.
3) Women should stay hydrated when out in the sun for prolonged hours.
4) Women should practice self-care to de-stress and communicate when they need support to family and friends
A healthy woman can only give birth to a healthy baby.