The Vagitus


The “Vagitus”

The cry of a newborn ushers in life. Painful as that cry might sound, the child’s brain function, or otherwise, could depend on whether that cry was a loud shrill, a low whisper, or even totally absent. Nurses have been falsely tagged notorious for beating children who didn’t cry at birth. As a doctor, I’ve had to do some beating too. Well, not exactly beating but I remember having to gently tap a child who didn’t cry within its first minute of life. I had to give him gentle strokes repeatedly and when I heard that cry,  I felt relieved and I felt like saying to the child, “Welcome to the world,  it’s a cool place with bad people and I’m sorry I beat you buddy

That’s how important a cry can be!  

It’s called “Vagitus” in medical parlance. The first cry of a newborn baby. But,  that child might live to have more vagituses if a more critical issue is not addressed! 

Maternal Mortality! 

In lay terms, it means the death of woman  while she is pregnant or at childbirth, or as long as 6weeks after delivery (from issues  relating to the pregnancy).

1 in 200 women is likely to die from pregnancy-related issues

The cry which was the  magic that started Jimmie’s life was the same cry seen on his dad’s eyes during the naming ceremony. His wife who bore him this handsome son was not there. Doctors said she had a seizure or something during labor and she didn’t make it. As Jimmie’s dad looked at his wife’s picture on their sitting room wall, he recollected that she had occasional headaches during pregnancy but that was all. She was perfectly fine and didn’t have any reason to go for medical check ups during pregnancy. Did she attend antenatal clinics? Well, he was honest enough to admit that she didn’t. 
Jimmie’s mum is one of the 5-6 women who die from pregnancy related issues out of 1000 women who deliver live babies in Nigeria. Five out of 1,000; small figure isn’t it? No it isn’t! Because those figures represent human beings; yeah, women like Jimmie’s mum! 

Had she known better, would she have made better choices? 

Maternal mortality remains a huge cause of deaths amongst women of reproductive age globally, but the numbers in Nigeria are currently alarming! 

What can we do to stop this trend? 

I summed up the many strategies that have been proposed by many agencies over the years in three captions : 

  • Educate Women
  • Empower the health care system 
  • Evaluate ourselves continuously 

How do you come in since these three seem like government responsibilities? Well, number 1 (Educating Women)  is not totally government responsibility alone. Look around you and you can be sure to see a pregnant woman who probably lives close by.  She’s vulnerable and could be the next Jimmie’s mum. Take time to ask her three questions. 

  • Is she attending antenatal care? 
  • Where?  
  • And how often?

If she isn’t attending,  then counsel her to.  If she is,  she should be attending as frequently as recommended at a HEALTH CENTRE!  Not a church or mosque, not with a traditional birth attendant or Iya elewe omo or baba alagbo; at a GOVERNMENT REGISTERED HEALTH CARE FACILITY!

She deserves to see her baby grow up. Help stop Maternal mortality today!

Help stop the cries. Give children the chance to grow up with their mothers around! 

Stop Maternal Mortality today

Dare Parkinson


Dr Osunlusi Olufemi 

MBBS Lagos

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