At just seven months pregnant, Esther, 23, went into labour at home in Uganda. “I started feeling uncomfortable and told my husband to take me to the nearby health centre for medical attention,” says Esther. She gave birth to premature twins, Edwin and Eunice.
She never anticipated that she would experience any pregnancy-related complications because she had attended all the antenatal care visits as required during pregnancy and she had two normal deliveries previously.
“I followed the advice of medical workers the health centre, and was looking forward to receiving my twins with a normal pregnancy. However, at 28 weeks, the course of the pregnancy changed and I delivered early,” she adds.
Early management of pregnancy-related complications reduces the risk of death for both the mother and child. According to the Ministry of Health in Uganda, 226,000 babies are born preterm each year and, of these, 12,500 children under the age of 5 die of complications due to prematurity. Globally, preterm birth remains the leading cause of death in children under the age of 5.
“I was helped at the health centre and given the best care before and after delivery. I brought two gorgeous children to the world. I loved them at first sight. It’s wonderful to be a mother of twins.”.
At the health facility where Esther delivered, World Vision’s AIM Health Plus project has built the capacity of health workers to support mothers to love and care for their preterm babies appropriately, including timely breastfeeding.
Esther was encouraged to breastfeed her twins exclusively because she had enough milk for her babies – almost all mothers of multiple infants will produce enough milk to exclusively breastfeed when supported and encouraged to do so. Early initiation of breastfeeding for children born in health facilities promotes prevention of chronic conditions.
“Breastfeeding premature twins is very challenging. My babies did not have the strength to suckle by themselves. They required respiratory support for their first weeks and I started breastfeeding them after they had gained enough strength to swallow. I was also introduced to the kangaroo care body contact system to keep them warm,” she adds.
Esther belongs to women’s care group that meets twice a month to discuss household nutrition and proper breastfeeding practices. The care groups have created a support network for mothers to support each other through behaviour changes, and continue encouraging breastfeeding.
According to the project manager, Mildred, there are now 232 of these care groups established in the district, each bringing together 10 to 15 women to discuss issues of proper nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
“We reach about 2,784 mothers monthly with key messages on nutrition and breastfeeding. When they meet, they share knowledge and experience and help each other to make sure that their children grow healthy. Mothers are now very proud of their healthy children,” says Mildred.
Esther lives happily with her husband, their seven-month-old twin babies and their two older children. “It is immensely satisfying to watch your babies grow, and know that is directly because of you Thank you World Vision” says Esther with a smile.