The Benefits Of Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy (HTSP)

Editorial Team

Last month Vanguard Nigeria reported that Nollywood actor Olumide Bakare died, just last week another popular Nollywood actor Pastor Ajidara died and yesterday we were shocked with the news of another death in Nollywood Moji Olaiya at the age of 42.

Moji Olaiya was said to have given birth to her second child just two months ago, after remarrying just last year.

Moji reportedly had her first child about 20 years ago after which she got divorced in 2008 and just remarried. According to Punch Newspapers, Olaiya, who was a daughter of high life veteran, Sir Victor Olaiya, was said to have died in an hospital in Canada.Unconfirmed reports said she died of cardiac arrest. She is survived by her husband, two daughters and parents.

Anyone who watches Yoruba movies would easily recognize her because she is without doubt a very talented actress who has acted in a lot of movies both Yoruba and English. In all honesty, I did not believe the story when I initially saw it because there are always a lot of false stories about people dying, it wasn’t until her colleagues started posting condolences that I finally accepted that the story was true.

In a country where we are complaining about maternal mortality and the incompetency of a lot of health care systems, you would be surprised to hear that she died in Canada after 2 months of giving birth. So then the question is why would a woman die from Cardiac Arrest after 2 months of successfully giving birth.

Different questions come to mind, was she too old to give birth? Did she wait too long to give birth or was the cardiac arrest totally unrelated? While we cannot say the exact reason for the cardiac arrest, Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy (HTSP) is strongly advised when trying to conceive.

According to Global Health Learning at age 35, a woman reaches advanced maternal age (AMA) and becomes more biologically prone to adverse pregnancy and maternal and neonatal health (MNH) outcomes such as.

  • Maternal near miss (MNM) and maternal death
  • Increased risk of preterm birth, stillbirth, early neonatal mortality, low birth weight, foetal and perinatal death
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Placenta praevia  a condition where the placenta lies low in the uterus and partially or completely covers the cervix
  • A foetus with breech presentation
  • Pulmonary embolism either during pregnancy or during the month following childbirth
  • Postpartum haemorrhage
  • Assisted vaginal delivery
  • Caesarean section

It is also advised that pregnancy should be delayed until age 18 and after a live birth, a mother should wait at least 24 months before attempting the next pregnancy. Also after a live birth don’t wait longer than five years to become pregnant again.

Practicing HTSP is important because it helps women to plan pregnancy at the healthiest times of their lives when they and their children are more likely to survive and stay healthy.

Research has shown that birth-to-pregnancy intervals of fewer than six months (equivalent to a 15-month birth-to-birth interval) are associated with increased risk of the following:

  • Third trimester bleeding
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Puerperal endometritis
  • Anemia

Similarly, a study conducted between 2012-2013 in a hospital in Tanzania found that birth-to-pregnancy intervals less than 18 months were associated with higher risks for:

  • Premature rupture of membrane
  • Anemia
  • Postpartum hemorrhage

On newborn and child health, a wealth of studies conducted in both high- and low-income countries, using different data sets, have found that conceiving at least 24 months after a live birth (or spacing about three years between births) is associated with lower newborn, infant, and child mortality. Short birth-to-pregnancy intervals, on the other hand, could lead to poor pregnancy outcomes and negatively affect the health of women and their children.

Shorter birth-to-pregnancy intervals are more likely to result in the following:

  • Neonatal/infant mortality
  • Under-five mortality
  • Small size at birth and low birth weight
  • Stunting and underweight

Global Health Learning advises that when couples practice HTSP, families experience direct health benefits:

  • Improved maternal health: reduced risk of anaemia, premature rupture of membranes, pre-eclampsia, haemorrhage, abortion, miscarriage, and maternal death
  • Improved newborn health: reduced risk that a subsequent pregnancy will result in premature birth or low birth weight, lowers the risk of perinatal or neonatal death, and enhances the likelihood of longer duration of breastfeeding
  • Improved nutritional status: increased likelihood of healthy growth due to spacing of births approximately three years apart
  • Reduces unsafe abortion: reduced rate of unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion

While we do not claim to know the cause of her death, we feel it is necessary to educate ourselves and women around us on the importance of timing our pregnancies and spacing them out properly so as to reduce the occurrence of maternal mortality.

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