Pregnant Women’s Groups: Year 2 Success

Posted on
24th Sep 2021
by Clare Sulley

We’re now beginning the final year of our Pregnant Women’s Groups project in Igembe Central, Meru. So much has happened over the course of the last two years and we wanted to share some of the incredible successes of the team, who have gone above and beyond to make this project more impactful than we could have hoped.

We’re well on our way to reaching our target of 5,700 women. To date, we’ve engaged 4,102 women in a series of 6 peer support group sessions where they learn about breastfeeding, birth planning, danger signs and other information they need to keep themselves, and their babies safe. We’ve also been working closely with male partners in the community to encourage support of pregnant women, and we’ve established a strong partnership with the sub-county and county health management teams to improve and enhance the quality of care being provided in Igembe Central. 

To measure the impact of our Pregnant Women's Groups in ensuring mums are armed with life-saving information for them and their babies, we have been measuring three core indicators:

  • % of newborns receiving cord care that minimises risk of umbilical infection
  • Number of women who attend their first antenatal care clinic within the first four months of their pregnancy
  • Number of male partners that demonstrate 3 or more out of 5 supportive behaviours throughout pregnancy and delivery

Cord care

Neonatal sepsis is the third most common cause of death in newborn babies in Kenya. This can often be a result of unsafe practices that cause infections in the umbilical cord stump.

We’re really proud of the progress we have made in communicating safe cord care practices: the number of babies receiving safe cord care that minimises the risk of umbilical infection has leaped from 67% to 82%, an improvement of 15%.

What’s more, the data we’ve collected through PWGs has allowed us to critically address some larger health challenges in the community. We’re now working with government health teams to identify where women have been given misinformation in health clinics r.e. cord care and we are facilitating training to ensure national guidelines are followed (do nothing at all, or apply chlorhexidine spirit). 

Antenatal care (ANC) attendance

It's globally recommended that women attend 4 antenatal care sessions in total. The earlier a woman attends, the more support and advice they can receive from health professionals to ensure they are prepared for birth. Antenatal care is a core contributor to reducing neonatal deaths.

When we started our Pregnant Women's Groups, we set ourselves a target of measuring the number of women attending ANC in the first three months of their pregnancy; what we discovered was a lower than expected reach:  4.57% of women attending ANC1 in year 1, and 15% in year 2.

Upon further interrogation it became clear that many women don’t realise they are pregnant until the end of the first trimester, meaning visits within the first three months are often unfeasible. We’re now measuring the number of women attending their first ANC session in the first four months of pregnancy, and we’re proud to say that, by the end of year 2, 34% of women are now attending ANC within the first 4 months of pregnancy. 

Male Partner Engagement

The sessions we run with dads-to-be aim to equip men with the necessary knowledge to support their partners through pregnancy, childbirth and in childcare. In the context of Meru, where male roles are more traditional, the male partner sessions help inform dads and encourage supportive behaviours to ultimately support the health of both mum and baby.

We’ve reached 776 men this year through male partner engagement sessions, and we’re now hosting community dialogue sessions which have encouraged men to form their own groups, which they themselves have given the name ‘Team Dad’.

We’re also seeing a shift in men’s attitudes about supporting their partners through pregnancy. At the beginning of the project, we asked men if they thought they should be accompanying their partner to ANC classes, of which 57.75% responded that they should be. 2 years in, and engagement efforts with the community about the importance of supporting pregnant women, this figure has increased to 84.7%!

There’s still a lot of work to be done within the community but we’re confident that in the final year, we can engage more male partners and have valuable discussions with them to influence the support they provide to pregnant women. Read more about our male partner sessions here.

More highlights...

  • We’ve referred over 1000 women to receive additional care at a health facility and you can read more about this on Marti’s blog here, along with the recognition of our work and relationship with the county and sub-county government health teams.
  • We’ve increased the number of community health volunteers we’re working with which Cherio talks about in her blog
  • As a result of the health equipment we bought for two health facilities, we have seen an increase in hospital deliveries. The Public Health Nurse from the Sub-county said ”There has been an influx of ANC patients because of resources that were given to Kangeta and Nthambiro. Also, delivery services in the two facilities have increased from 36 - 56% since the project started”. 
  • We’ve welcomed back Faith to join Jacob and Omoko in the Meru team as a Project Support Officer to support the implementation of the project in the final year!

Funded by all our brilliant supporters and match funded by the UK Government, Pregnant Women’s Groups have gone from strength to strength and the team at the core of this continue to work hard to make it so successful. We’re eager and excited going into Year 3, pushing to reach - and in some cases exceed - our targets. We’ll be planning a sustainable exit strategy to ensure the community is well equipped to continue delivering the level of support that pregnant women are currently receiving.

We’ll keep you updated at all stages and if you have any questions, please reach out to us!