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The danger of herbal preparations aka Agbo in pregnancy

traditional herbs in pregnancy

The look on the face of the doctor doing her scan was scary. “Had he seen or found anything abnormal on her baby?” she thought. She felt her heartbeat increase.“Doctor, is anything the matter?”. She asked.

“Your doctor will explain to you,” he said. Jennifer worked in one of the top five banks as one of the senior management staff. She had risen quickly through the ranks despite her age after her return from the United Kingdom where she had bagged a master’s degree in business management.

 

She had also witnessed a significant increase in her salary and employee benefits. She was married to Rob and they had everything except one thing: a child. In this part of the world, when you don’t produce a child after one year, tongues begin to wag especially from the so-called womb watchers, who keep on looking for signs of pregnancy and a swollen tummy.

 

Rob did not mind because he believed that children came from God and in due time, he would bless them with lots of children. They had seen all possible specialists in different hospitals and the result was the same: they were both fine. They had no problems.It had begun to worry Jennifer, she allowed the pressure to get to her and she became desperate.

 

She asked her friends.“I will direct you to one woman. She is well known, and she has this drug that can make you get pregnant in no time”, Alero told her. “Oh really? I don’t mind. Can we go over the weekend?” “Sure. I will take you”, Alero promised her. She did not bother telling her husband. They went visiting mama Ngozi who was famed amongst those looking for the fruit of the womb, they sang her praises everywhere. She seemed to have the magic drug and her shop was very busy.

 

Jennifer was surprised at the type of cars parked there. She could see land cruisers, Range Rovers, Cadillacs and even a Porsche. This was a good sign she thought because for this caliber of people to be here, she must be very good at what she does. “Take one cup in the morning and one at night before you sleep”. Mama Ngozi said as she handed her a ten liter bottle. “How much is your bill?”, she asked. “N185,000”. Jennifer paid immediately, and they left.

 

She was very happy and Alero was also happy as they drove off together. That same evening, she threw up twice and she felt weak. All through the week, her breasts had felt full and it was not yet time for her period as she kept a very close watch on her period. She called Alero who suggested that she do a home pregnancy test. She procured from the pharmacy across the street and it was positive. She couldn’t believe it. She informed her hubby and he was very elated. They celebrated that night as the Lord had finally blessed them. She continued with the liquid which she had been given to her by mama Ngozi as she was instructed to keep taking the liquid even when she took in till her delivery. The liquid will help the child develop properly.

 

She registered for antenatal care. “Are you on drugs or any form of medications?”. The doctor asked her. “No”. Ok. Please you will take only medications that we give you from the hospital. Some drugs are contraindicated in pregnancy and herbal concoctions are a big no because they can harm the baby especially in the first trimester when the organs are being formed. I will order a scan for you now” the doctor added.

 

They went home. She never mentioned the liquid to her husband and she never took the medications from the hospital. Rob got a five month contract with a telecommunications company to run some cables and install some software, and this would keep him away for four months. He pleaded with her to keep up with her medications and doctor appointments, and he promised to check in on her daily.

 

She never went to the hospital. Her tummy grew bigger by the day and she was excited that she was going to be a mother very soon. Four months elapsed, and Rob came back. Incidentally, the next day was her antenatal clinic day and he insisted he was going with her. She was reluctant, but he was insistent. “I have to be actively involved in this. It is our child and I also want to know how our baby is doing” he said. “But I already told you he is doing fine,” she argued. “Please, let us go” he told her with a tone of finality.

 

The drive to the hospital was a short and quiet one. She was afraid of what her husband was going to do to her when he found out that she had not been going to the hospital for her scheduled visits. The doctor chided her, “You have not been coming to the hospital. We have not seen you for the past four months. I hope you have been taking your medications”. “Yes, I have been taking them religiously. I actually registered in a clinic closer to home for convenience”, She replied.

 

“This is a paper for a scan. We need to find out how baby is doing as you have not been here for a while. Go to the next building and have it done, then come back to see me with the result”, the doctor told her as he handed her a form which he had filled with the necessary details. The couple left as instructed to the next building for the scan. During the scan, the look on the sonologist’s face was not fine. It looked a bit off and worried. “Is anything the matter?” she asked him. “Your doctor will explain “he said and kept on with the scan.

 

She began to panic. “I hope nothing has happened to my baby”, she thought to herself. Soon, they were done with the scan and were back in the consulting room of their primary doctor. He collected the scan result and read through, and his eyes became wider.“Any problem?” she asked “Yes, I am afraid that there are a lot of problems. The bones that should cover the brain of your baby are conspicuously absent. The brain is just floating in the amniotic fluid and this is really not compatible with life” he said. He went ahead to open a picture on his computer system and described in detail what the scan meant to ensure they understood what was happening.

 

“Have you been taking any other thing apart from your routine drugs?” She was crying. “Yes.” She said in between tears.“I never even took my drugs as you said” she added. “I am currently taking an herbal preparation that I got from a maternity center which they said is supposed to help my baby grow very well”.

“Well, the herbal preparation that you are taking may have contributed to this condition. The first trimester of pregnancy is a very critical period as that is when the organs are being developed and anything that affects this process can cause an abnormality.” Her husband sat in his chair, shocked to his marrow at all that he had just heard. He had no idea of what to say or what to do. “I will have to refer you to the teaching hospital for expert management as this is beyond our scope in this hospital”, the doctor said and proceeded to write a referral form for them.

 

What do you think became of Jennifer and Rob? Herbal medications are not advisable in pregnancy as they can harm your baby.

Dr Chris Agape

Dr Chris Agape

Hi, I'm Chris Agape. I help health-tech startups leverage clinical principles for success. I help NGOs run successful programs. I’m a medical Doctor with a focus on using technology as a tool to achieve SDGs around health access and universal coverage I specialize in model and system development, growth and smooth roll out of equitable and innovative health services including technology-driven and traditional public health programs I have certifications in Health Management, development, and policy from the University of Washington and Havard University amongst others, and am a member of the young professionals in public health and an alumnus of the West African Academy of Public Health. Current interests are in health technology and health policy development across the African continent I am skilled in Public Speaking, Leadership, and Management

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