After being ushered into the imaging room by a nurse at Song’onyet Dispensary in Kericho, Sharon Malenji lay on her back as a cold substance was poured on her protruding belly, which hang more towards the left side.
As cultural beliefs go, this convinced her that she was carrying a baby girl, but the nurses performing the ultrasound scan told her that it showed it was a boy. Two weeks later, she gave birth to a boy at the exact date the nurses had predicted using the scan.
Sharon was among 60 women in Kipkelion West Sub-county, who had an ultrasound scan done for the first time in late August.
In rural areas, many women treat it as a luxury, rather than a necessary part of monitoring their pregnancy and the unborn baby’s health.
Moreover, ultrasound services are only available in Kericho town, and this would set them back Sh800 on transport costs alone.
Ninety-five per cent of the women said they had never had advanced antenatal screening during pregnancy, while three out of four said they could not afford the Sh1,500 that is normally charged for a scan.
Were it not for the free service at Song’onyet Dispensary in Chilchila Ward, many of them would not have gotten the service that has become a part of pregnancy monitoring for women in urban areas.
At the dispensary, the portable ultrasound scan captured foetal images, monitored gestational age, showed the gender of the foetus and its position in the womb.
The women’s blood pressure, nutritional levels and other health indicators were also monitored, and an ambulance was on stand-by to rush mothers to a larger hospital if an emergency arose.
The more sophisticated antenatal screening was sponsored by youth under the auspices of the Young African Leaders Initiatives and Camtech Imaging Solutions.
The group targeted more than 100 women drawn from Chepkechei, Samolel, Koisagat, Chilchila, Kipsinende, Cherara, Ndubusat, Magire, Korosyot, Lelu, Chepkendi, Toroton and Kipteris among other areas, but they only managed to serve 60 due to unforeseen challenges like power outage at the dispensary, heavy rains and the terrain.
Fancy Koech, the nurse in-charge of Songonyet Dispensary, said that the medical report captured in the patients’ cards will be useful for health practitioners attending to them in subsequent visits to the clinic and while giving birth.
“We are telling women the importance of seeking antenatal care at least four times during pregnancy, and encouraging them to give birth in hospitals, because it is now free under the Linda Mama initiative,” she said.
The sponsors of the screening called on the county government to procure ultrasound machines for rural areas, to help arrest pregnanc