Women take control

Nursing sister Melissa Williamson and gynaecologist Dr Daniela Krick, look at the screen, while Dr Sharvay Bagratee clips a womans tubes with the help of a camera.

Mitchell’s Plain mothers have taken control of their reproductive health by having themselves sterilised.

While 50 women signed up to participate in the Western Cape Government Health’s “Operation 100” Mandela Day initiative at Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital on Saturday July 22, two of them were found to be pregnant, and six others didn’t pitch.

Jasmina Martins, 37, from Eastridge, who has four children, aged between 18 and a year, said she had been on the waiting list for eight months. “You can’t raise children met al hierdie gun skietery,” she said, referring to the violence in the area.

“I don’t want any more and I had to think long-term.

“With all of this gangsterism going on it is not worth bringing children into this world,” she said.

Ms Martins said her last birth had been traumatic and that her mind had been made up back then already that she didn’t want anymore children.

She had visited her local clinic and was put on the waiting list. About two months ago she called to confirm her details on the list, and was booked for the procedure last weekend.

Lateefah Brown, 35, from Rocklands, who also had her tubes tied, said she, her three sons, aged between 16 and 3, and husband would be immigrating later this year. She told the Plainsman her son, 12, had witnessed a shooting in front of their door about three years back.

“He got the fright of his life. He just froze and we had to pick him up and take him out of harm’s way,” she said.

“We don’t realise the trauma and what goes on in their minds,” she said.

Ms Brown said her children play outside but when they come in they talk about the gunshots they’ve heared.

“This is not an environment to bring up kids, not forgetting the drugs,” she said.

“There is also the matter of cost of living, I’m unemployed and my husband is the sole breadwinner,” she said.

Ms Martins said it was a decision, which she had to make.

“There are too many youth and too many kids, who don’t realise the consequences of having children, how must their children live and I don’t have to be on birth control,” she said.

Dr Tracey Hinkel, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at the district hospital, said she was proud of the women, who felt brave and empowered enough to take responsibility for their reproductive health.

“There are women who are desperate to be sterilised. They have four to five kids and now know that they do not want any more children,” she said.

Dr Hinkel said some of them were not on any form of contraception and had already had abortions.

She confirmed that, as with every form of contraception available, there always remained the slightest chance of pregnancy after sterilisation, but that this should not deter women; as it remained one of the most reliable and effective ways of preventing pregnancy. The chances of pregnancy after the operation are probably in the order of one in 200. Dr Hinkel said patients were told that the procedure was generally irreversible and that they should not have the operation unless they were sure that they did not want another child.

The advantages of the operation is that it is considered minor surgery, is minimally invasive, it is immediately effective and that it does not affect one’s health or hormone levels, sex drive or the act of sexual intercourse.

Dr Hinkel cautioned patients that it did not, however, prevent sexually transmitted infections or HIV/Aids.

She told the Plainsman there were 147 women still on their sterilisation waiting list, which may take up to two years to get through without radical intervention and possibly more frequent sterilisation drives.

“We can only manage three, at most, a week,” she said.

Dr Hinkel co-ordinated the project, wherein volunteer medical staff, including gynaecologists, anaesthetists, ward clarkes, nurses in wards and theatre were all on board to achieve a record number of laparoscopic sterilisations.

In 2017, the provincial department embarked on changing the lives of 67 patients, by performing 27 hip or knee replacements and 40 cataract surgeries.

This was made possible through financial assistance of private partners and health staff who donated their time on weekends to do these operations.

The department set out to improve the lives of an additional 100 vulnerable members of society who were in dire need of life-changing operations.

The additional operations for Mandela Day are being performed on current patients who were identified through the department’s central waiting list.