Pregnant women still face the risk of postpartum depression due to painful labour as the cost of epidural — a drug that makes childbirth painless — is still high.
Painless childbirth uses epidural — a method of administering epidural anesthesia — on the lower body part of the mother, numbing pain nerves that carry contractions.
For mothers with underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, childbirth pain can result in death. Currently, the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) is the only public hospital that offers painless delivery services in addition to King Faisal Hospital.
Rwanda’s public health insurance scheme, Mutuelle de Santé, does not cover the cost, so mothers must pay from their pocket. The service can cost Rwf620,000 AT King Faisal Hospital, a cost most mothers who subscribe to Mutuelle de Sante cannot afford.
“The service is expensive, the mothers who come to us cannot afford it. The only way to introduce the service permanently is if health insurance can cover it or if the government rolled out the program for at least mothers at risk during childbirth,” Jean Damascene Hagirwimfura, director general of Masaka Hospital told Rwanda Today recently.
Francoise Mukeshimana had her first child in December 2022 through a C-section.
She spent two days in labor. She said the pain was so unbearable that she requested a C-section at the end.
“At that moment, giving birth to my child without pain was the relief I needed. The C-section is scary, but the pain was just too much at the time,” Ms Mukeshimana recounts, adding that if she had the option to give birth with neither the pain nor the C-section, she would have taken it.
So far, only two hospitals in Rwanda give epidurals, Masaka Hospital is offering the service for a limited number of mothers who most need it. Dr. Hassan Sibomana, Division Manager of Maternal and Child Health at Rwanda Biomedical Center told Rwanda Today that painless delivery services are currently too expensive to be either covered by public health insurance or be introduced in public hospitals.
He said some mothers benefit from expert teams that visit some hospitals offering such services. It is reported by World Health Organisation that 203 in 100,000 mothers in Rwanda lose their lives during childbirth.