For most women, the excruciating pain associated with labour is a part of birth they would prefer to skip.
Unaware of the health risks they are exposing themselves to, some women have resorted to shortcuts to “make the process faster”.
Women in parts of Mombasa and Kwale counties use a concoction made from natural herbs to induce labour early and, hopefully, ease the pain.
Ms Mwanasiti Hamisi, a mother of three from Likoni Sub-County in Mombasa, said she used the concoction (known as mihaso) in two of her pregnancies and both “turned out all right with minimal pains”.
“With my first pregnancy, I fainted while in labour because of unbearable pain,” she said, adding that she decided to give mihaso a try on the advise of her friends.
However, gynaecologists warned against the use of such concoctions, saying the women were risking their lives and those of their babies.
Coast Chairman of the Kenya Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society, Dr Ramadhan Marjan, said women came up with different tactics to either escape normal delivery or to ease the pains, therefore, putting their lives and the babies’ at risk.
Ms Rukia Salim told HealthyNation her friend, a first time mother, used mihaso and developed complications. Her friend almost lost her life.
“My friend had been in labour for five hours. When she was given the herb to speed up labour, she started bleeding,” she said.
Dr Marjan said some women inserted a greenish substance in their birth canal. “Sometimes expectant mothers go to the hospital over a false alarm. During a vaginal exam by a doctor, the greenish substance comes out, triggering an alarm. The doctor ends up performing a C-section when it was not necessary,” he said.
“It is normal for new mothers to have longer labour compared to women who have delivered more than once,” he said.
Circumstances under which a woman may experience prolonged labour is, among others, when a baby is too big to move through the birth canal or when the baby is in an abnormal position, said the gynaecologist.
“Normally, the baby’s head is supposed to face the mother’s back and the baby should be upside down before birth. Any other position is abnormal. Weak contractions can also prolong labour and if the mother’s canal is too small,” he added.
Another gynaecologists, who did not want to be named, said only doctors were allowed to induce labour.
“Speeding up labour can be harmful because a birth canal must have opened up to a certain width for a woman to be able to deliver. Rushing it might cause a tear that may endanger the woman’s life through excessive bleeding,” she said.
She added that the concoctions taken to induce labour do not adhere to hygiene and safety standards.
According to Dr Bijuma Mitwani, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Mrima maternity hospital in Likoni, locally made concoctions caused uterine hyperstimulation. This caused severe contractions that resulted in placental abruption, uterine rapture and uterine atony. The result of all these was severe bleeding and death of the foetus and the mother, she said.
“Very severe contractions cause placental insufficiency leading to foetal death,” she said.
According to her, a monitored induce labour can only be done in special cases such as premature rupture of membranes or pre-eclampsia — a complication in pregnancy characterised by high blood pressure and protein in urine.