Health education enables people to understand and analyse their health problems, and it motivates and leads them in the right direction to effect the desired change. In the context of antenatal care, it helps to educate, motivate and encourage pregnant women to use the service by providing information that helps them to make informed decisions. Moreover, it advocates greater acceptance and uptake of antenatal care by educating the whole community. The result is that everyone understands that the overall benefits of antenatal care are the promotion of maternal and newborn health, and the prevention of common diseases and complications during pregnancy, labour, delivery and the postnatal period. Effective antenatal care helps to detect complications early, and it leads to swift management, including referral to a higher health facility when necessary. It encourages people to make preparations for possible emergencies during pregnancy and childbirth, and it brings about a sustained reduction in maternal and newborn deaths and complications.
Your role is to ensure community awareness of the antenatal care services you provide for pregnant women, and to inform women, their families and community members about the danger signs, and where to seek emergency care. (You will learn about the danger signs in later study sessions.) You need to ensure that everyone in the community is aware of the need to plan in advance for emergency transportation, should the need arise.
You will certainly save lives, even though the overall health of those around you is not in your hands alone. This is because people decide for themselves how to use your advice, and what choices to make about their own health and that of other family members. By teaching and sharing information, you can help people to make their own choices more wisely. Your first task is to educate your community and promote positive health behaviour.
An antenatal care visit is a good opportunity to promote dialogue with your clients, and reinforce positive health messages. Therefore, you need to encourage women to come for the first antenatal visit early in pregnancy. In the next part of this study session, you will learn about the best methods for achieving this aim.