Women’s Health a Top Priority
Good women's health reflects on the quality of, and access to, maternal, sexual and reproductive healthcare. The Western Cape Government’s three month long Women’s Health campaign, aims to encourage and empower women to look after their health and provides information on the holistic approach adopted by the provincial government which covers multiple aspects of care. Women are encouraged to take full advantage of their free access to a range of health services available at any public health clinic in the province. Health practitioners at these clinics provide free advice on various female health matters, including contraceptive choices, unwanted pregnancies, family planning assistance and early booking, cervical cancer and breast cancer screening, antenatal care and chronic disease management.
In order to improve the reach of women’s healthcare; the Western Cape Government Health (WCGH) has launched a three-month Women's Health awareness campaign that will focus on the well-being of women. The communication campaign conveys that the improvement of women's health will benefit the entire population of the Western Cape, including children, through the reduction of maternal and child mortality rate, amongst others. This benefits both the women, and the community, because of the centrality of women to the health of their families and communities. In the long term, improving the health of women enhances the productivity, social and economic participation and development of families. (See artwork attached). The campaign will run on radio, print and social media, including MXit, where we now have over 20 000 followers.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: “During August, women’s month, it is apt to highlight the challenges that pregnant women face. The optimal care for a pregnant woman and her unborn baby is the cornerstone of a well-functioning health system and a healthy community. This is in line with Western Cape Government's strategic objective ‘To create wellness’. We will also focus on the important role that men can and should play to support our women."
In line with the Millennium Development goals, women’s health is a top priority for the WCGH. Part of the Department's objective for the Millennium Development Goals is to reduce the maternal death rate by 75%, by 2015.
The following services will be available to all women:
Antenatal (Pre-Birth) Health Services
Pregnant girls and women are referred to maternity services or Midwife Obstetric Units (MOUs) in urban areas and satellite or fixed clinics in the rural areas. MOUs are birthing units run by midwives in the community for primary healthcare patients. It's advisable for expectant mothers to book their first visit to the clinic before 20 weeks or as soon as possible thereafter.
Mothers can deliver at fixed clinics or Midwife Obstetric Units (MOUs), which are run by midwives in the community for primary healthcare patients. If complications arise during birth then they will be transferred to a hospital up the line. Mothers who are HIV positive can join the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission service.
Cervical Cancer Screening
Cervical and breast cancer are the two most common forms of cancer found amongst South African women and all women are at risk of developing these cancers. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. All women should have a pap smear at least every 10 years starting at age 30 years. This means at around 30, 40 and 50 years of age.
Contraception (Family Planning)
The service offers counselling on and provision of a range of safe, effective and acceptable contraceptive methods from which women, men and teenagers can freely choose to prevent unwanted pregnancy.
Women who start menopause prematurely (before 45 years of age) or who are in menopause and are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms, can have a gynaecological assessment and examination. Hormonal tests can be done to decide on treatment. Women can ask for counselling to decide on the best treatment option.
Post-Natal (After Birth) Health Care
Post-natal services become available after the mother and her newborn have been discharged from the MOU or Clinic. This usually happens six hours after the birth if both mother and baby are in good health. After the Birth Infant's umbilical cord should be checked at follow-up visits to the clinic every day for three days to make sure it does not become infected.
Women and girls whose menstrual periods are one or more weeks late are advised to have a pregnancy test. These tests are free at primary health clinics and other health facilities. However, they are not always available. Pregnancy testing kits can be bought at a pharmacy. The nurse will ask for a urine sample, which will be tested.
Termination of Pregnancy (TOP) Service
Women who do not want to go through with a pregnancy can choose to have the pregnancy terminated. Free abortions are available at some state clinics.
Treatment for Sexual Abuse/Rape
The service is available to all women and men over the age of 14 years who have been raped or sexually assaulted. Survivors are given medical, psychological and forensic care at specialist clinics in the province. At the clinic, the survivor will be interviewed and counselled by a health worker in a private room/area. The health worker will ask whether the rape has been reported to the police. If, and only if, the survivor wants to report the rape, a police officer will be asked to come to the health facility to get a statement.