Healthcare support for pregnant teens

Sister Nomzamo Mmango, the new Nursing Manager at the Mitchell’s Plain Maternity Obstetric Unit (MOU).

Teenage pregnancy, the use of emergency contraceptives, early bookings, and access to prenatal care are the focus of this year’s Pregnancy Education Week which is marked until Friday February 19.

Between April 2019 and December 2021, 2 869, teenage pregnancies were recorded at the provincial health department’s Maternity Obstetric Units (MOU) in the Klipfontein and Mitchell’s Plain area over the past three years.

According to the nursing managers of Hanover Park Community Day Centre’s MOU, Sister Loretta Abrahams, and Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre’s MOU, Sister Nomzamo Mmango, the increase in teenage pregnancy is a concern in the communities they serve as many young girls aged between 15 and 19 years old come from socially and financially challenged backgrounds.

“Various contraceptive methods are available at healthcare facilities to avoid unplanned pregnancies. Young mothers are encouraged to book early at the maternity unit as soon as they are aware of the pregnancy for the benefit and health and safety of the mom and her unborn child,” said Ms Mmango.

“Early bookings allow our midwives to check the stage of pregnancy, to determine any abnormalities in the foetus, to provide a full examination of the mother and assessment of her health status, monitoring of her pregnancy journey and provide prenatal education which forms part of the Department’s First 1000 Days childhood plan,” she added.

“To avoid an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy at a young age, our facilities offer emergency contraceptives during the week, weekends, and after-hours as well as various family planning methods when the adolescent becomes sexually active,” said Ms Mmango.

“Many of these young mothers that book at the maternity unit come from poor areas and are not at the means to financially support their baby and would immediately ask for the Sassa financial assistance grant form to be completed once the baby is born.”

All healthcare facilities offer emergency contraception which must be taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.

The department has various support programmes in place to assist pregnant teenagers who have social challenges as part of the First 1000 Days plan, where a child’s health is most vulnerable during the first 1000 days of its life and the mother’s mental health is important for a healthy pregnancy and birth.

At the Mitchells Plain Maternity Obstetric Unity situated at the Mitchells Plain Community Health Centre, mothers are encouraged to access the postnatal services after the baby is born, for health checks, immunisation and to discuss any challenges they are experiencing with the newborn baby and their health status.

Another form of support as part of the First 1000 Days programme for young mothers is the MomConnect mobile platform which has three main objectives:

  • To register each pregnancy at a government health facility.
  • To send stage-based, personalised SMSes to each mom in the registry.
  • To allow women to engage with the health system through help desk tools and services.

How To Register for MomConnect:

  • Ask someone at a public health care facility to confirm that you are pregnant.
  • Dial *134*550# from your cellphone to register.
  • Answer a few simple questions about your pregnancy.
  • You will then be registered.
  • Pregnancy is registered in the national database.
  • The user receives weekly SMS messages to inform them of their pregnancy and baby health (up to when the child is one year old).