Adesua Oni is a registered nurse and midwife. In this interview with ADEOLA OTEMADE, she discusses the issues facing pregnant women, the factors responsible for maternal mortality and how the government can provide a better health system to the population.
Who is Adesua Oni?
Adesua Oni is a registered nurse and midwife, wife and mother of two. I am the founder of Pregnancy Support Foundation, a non-governmental organization with a vision to contribute its quota to reduce maternal mortality by providing physical, psychological, social and spiritual support to pregnant women and women trying to conceive. I am also the founder of the Stepped-up Nurse Academy with a vision to train nurses for extraordinary impact.
How did you manage to reconcile family, work and management of the foundation?
Reconciling family, work and managing the foundation was very difficult. I have to work three times harder than the average nurse to make it all right. I maximize my nighttime hours and have a great ability to multitask. This ability has actually kept Mega-woman’s name stuck in my DNA to this day.
What do you think are the challenges that Nigerian pregnant women face?
The challenges that the average pregnant woman faces are many. Based on my years of experience and my closer relationship with them this year, I have discovered that ignorance is the biggest challenge facing the average pregnant woman in Nigeria. Many of them do not have the information regarding the health of the pregnancy, while a few others have partial or incorrect information. They also choose to look for health solutions in the wrong places because they ignore the far-reaching effect that a simple wrong turn can mean in the near future. This is why Pregnancy Support teaches daily (using posts, live videos, YouTube videos, podcasts and e-books) on social media to enlighten more and more women and children. men. Our Facebook groups include men because we know that husbands and fathers need to know these things as well, in order to adequately support their wives during and after pregnancy.
Another major challenge that the average pregnant woman in Nigeria faces is that of inadequate funding or low socio-economic status. So many pregnant women do not even have a job or gainful employment to support themselves during pregnancy. They depend solely on their husbands who may be more focused on other projects than investing in his wife’s health. If he has more than one wife, the man has more mouths to feed and therefore may not provide his wife with access to optimal health care. Because I have discovered that some important decisions rest with the husband, I have written extensively on the husband’s involvement in maternal health in my book Pregnancy Support published in April of this year. For financial reasons, too, many women prefer to risk their lives and say no to a Caesarean section because they cannot afford the extra bills for the surgery. This challenge is a strong reason why I wrote and published my second book, CAESARIAN to enlighten women and their husbands on the pros and cons of saying yes or no to Caesarean section.
How do you think the government can improve the health system for pregnant women?
The government should invest more in midwifery compensation as this is the only specialty where two lives are directly involved and both can be lost if the midwife is not able. They should provide our public and university hospitals with better facilities so that optimal care can be provided. Ambulances in these hospitals should also be sufficiently equipped to safely transport pregnant women living in places far from their homes to the hospital. Many die due to a lack of accessibility or a delay in accessing health services. The hospital labor room should be equipped with facilities to ensure privacy during labor. Booths or screens can be provided so that each woman can feel comfortable exposing herself and their husbands are allowed to stay with them during labor and delivery.
When did you create the Pregnancy Support Foundation?
Pregnancy Support started on February 12, 2021 and was 100 people online and so far we have been able to impact an increasing number of pregnant women on social media, mainly Facebook. Currently, our Facebook community is made up of approximately 2,600 women and men of reproductive age. We also educate women and indirectly their men on Whatsapp, Instagram and Linkedin. On Whatsapp, I launched the VIP-MUMS Academy in March for which women pay a token of 500-2,000 per month for more in-depth training and education on topics related to pregnancy. I have faced challenges, many of which are rooted in the workforce and finances. So far I have run the whole business with my salary.
What are the challenges encountered by the foundation since its creation?
Finance has been the biggest challenge since its inception. Managing the social media pages where teaching takes place on a daily basis is very expensive. Currently, we are planning to launch a medical intervention with the local government of Ifaka, in Mando, Kaduna state, but the main constraints have been funding. For a month, we reached out to people to sponsor this outreach, but responses were weak. Everyone complains about the socio-economic situation of the country. We also have the challenge of encouraging pregnant women to listen to and use the teachings given on our social media platforms, namely: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and WhatsApp. Our VIP Mums Academy and our Facebook community also need funding to function properly. So far I have run the foundation with my paycheck as a nurse. As we speak, my salary can no longer conveniently run the NGO.
Can you give statistics on the mortality rate of pregnant women recorded this year?
The maternal mortality rate recorded in Nigeria in 2020 was 814 per 100,000 live births according to the World Health Organization (WHO). I don’t have the statistics for 2021 yet but I think it would have gone down further. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) in several low- and middle-income countries is alarming, with around 34% of maternal deaths worldwide occurring in Nigeria and India alone. A Nigerian woman’s lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, or after an abortion is 1 in 22, unlike the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4,900.
Nursing was chosen for me by my parents. But before the end of my first year, I started to find meaning in it and I learned to love the job despite its many challenges. I chose midwifery because I was always thrilled and excited about each new life I gave birth to while working in a private hospital as a new registered nurse.
What advice do you give women to stay healthy during pregnancy?
Staying healthy during pregnancy is quite a lesson. But in summary, I would advise every pregnant woman to have a pregnancy support coach or an executive midwife. This midwife will be a referral physician whenever she has complaints and questions. This service can be provided on social media using the cheapest platform which is Whatsapp. Pregnant women can connect to their obstetricians and midwives online and ask for help faster, just like I do for my Pregnancy Support Foundation clients. If that happens, she would have access to all the information she needs to stay healthy during pregnancy.