A Midwife’s Dedication to Improving Postpartum Family Planning in Kanvilli, Ghana
Published on September 11, 2023
By Daniel Obloni Kweitsu, Knowledge Management and Communications Specialist, Jhpiego Ghana
Nestled on the outskirts of Tamale, the northern regional capital of Ghana, lies a small community called Kanvilli. This vibrant community relies on the Kanvilli Health Center for its primary healthcare needs. With its yellow-themed walls, the center may seem simple, but its role in the community is vital.
For more than nine years, Rahinatu Mahama has served as a midwife and caregiver to countless expectant mothers and newborn babies in the community. She is more than just a midwife – she is a familiar face. Her kind and gentle manner, paired with her expert knowledge and skill, has earned her the admiration and respect of everyone in the community.
She has delivered countless babies and seen the joys and challenges that come with childbirth. She is also a strong promoter of postpartum family planning, counseling the families she cares for on the importance of planning and taking control of their reproductive health.
“Despite exposure to family planning messages through the media such as radio and television, the practice is not common among the people. Contraceptive options remain unknown to many women and men in the community, and even those who are familiar with them struggle to access them”, says Rahinatu.
In Kanvilli, many women and families don’t access family planning due to common misconceptions, which can include beliefs that family planning methods can cause infertility and are unsafe, that they are only suitable for married couples, and that they are against religious or cultural beliefs. To Rahinatu, these misconceptions put up barriers to individuals accessing family planning services.
Determined to make a difference, in 2022 Rahinatu took part in several refresher training programs on family planning and maternal care organized by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) with funding from MOMENTUM Country and Global Leaderhip.
This training included hands-on coaching on postpartum family planning services as part of the project’s wider efforts to improve reproductive, maternal, and child health in the area. “These trainings have made me very confident and competent particularly, on the different types of family planning methods, including hormonal and non-hormonal options. Now I can counsel families to make informed family planning choices and I use the opportunity to address any myths or misconceptions they may have, says Rahinatu.
She also received supportive supervision as part of the training program—a process that involves providing ongoing guidance, feedback, and support to health workers to improve the quality of care they provide.
Culturally in Kanvilli, men are the ultimate decision-makers in major family matters such as family planning.
Rahinatu has also created ways to involve husbands in the decision-making process during her counselling sessions.
“When the husbands are involved, it builds trust and makes the women very confident about the family planning option chosen,” says Rahinatu.
Rahinatu has earned the trust and confidence of the women in her community, who feel secure knowing they have their partners’ support. She explains that the approach has helped her dispel some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding family planning within the community. Her strategy is yielding good results, as there is an observed increase in the number of families accepting and signing up for family planning services. In the last quarter of 2022, 30 new families signed up for family planning services at a health facility, compared to just 11 during the same period the previous year. And it doesn’t stop there. As of March 2023, the health facility has already provided family planning services to over 460 families. That’s 460 families who have been empowered to make informed decisions about their family size and spacing.
Rahinatu serves as an inspiration to other midwives and nurses in her district. Her commitment to providing high-quality healthcare and her willingness to go above and beyond to ensure that women in her community have access to the health services they need won her an award as the Best Nurse/Midwife in her district during the 2022 Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) awards.
MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership partners with the Ghana Health Service to improve maternal, newborn, and child health services in the Northern zones of Ghana. Since 2019, over 1,000 nurses and midwives like Rahinatu, have been trained using mentorship and other on-the-job methods to enhance their skills in delivering quality services, especially in the areas of reproductive health, family planning, maternal, and emergency obstetric and neonatal care.