CHX for umbilical cord care… a mother’s experience

Thursday 15 June 2017

By David Githinji

Ann with her baby at home

Ann Mtenyo aged 45, is a mother of eight children. All her children except the eighth child were delivered at home with the help of a traditional birth attendant. Ann says she used to apply lizard ‘pop’ (metabolic waste) and baby powder on the umbilical cords of her babies after delivery, as recommended by her mother.
Ann says: “I gave birth to seven of my children at home. I always had normal deliveries.  I used to go to the clinic to collect the book and there after deliver at home with help from a birth attendant.  I used lizard ‘pop’ on some of my babies’ cords and on others, I used baby powder. I would gather the lizard ‘pop’ from the house walls and apply the white part to the cord every evening. I observed that the cord would dry for some days then start to enlarge and become a fresh wound.”
Ann’s eighth pregnancy was different - She delivered her baby in hospital and was introduced to Chlorhexidine (CHX) for cord care
“I chose to go to the hospital for my eighth delivery. In the past, I had a lot of strength but now I am weak. I had been unwell and I knew if I go to hospital I will get help in case of any problem during delivery.  A birth companion went with me to Cheptais sub-county hospital. After delivering the nurse applied some medicine (CHX) on the cord and I was given some sachets to apply for seven days at home. Three days later the cord was dry and healed. The cord did not change to any colour unlike in the past. I am very happy that the cord healed without becoming a wound,” says Ann

After experiencing the benefits of CHX, Ann says she will share the information with her church members and also encourage other expectant mothers to use the gel for cord care

Chlorhexidine digluconate gel 7.1% (delivering 4%) is a broad spectrum antiseptic that is safe and effective for reducing bacterial colonization on the skin and umbilical stump of newborns. Pooled analysis of different studies have shown that application of Chlorhexidine (CHX) on the umbilical cord immediately after cord cutting helps prevent infection by 68% and reduces neonatal mortality by 23%.

Save the Children with funding from GSK has been piloting the use of Chlorhexidine gel (CHX) in Bungoma County in 21 heath facilities.
Ann’s story is one of many. Between February2016 and August 2016 out of 8470 deliveries, CHX was successfully used on 8144 babies in Bungoma County.

Project information:

Save the Children with funding from GlaxoSmithKline, is implementing a maternal and newborn health project in Bungoma County. The intervention aims to achieve a 21% reduction in maternal and new born deaths by 2018, impacting the lives of an estimated 16,468 new-borns and 22,550 pregnant women.  This will be achieved through creating and increasing demand for, and access to lifesaving maternal and newborn health services, at the same time improve health workers’ and health facilities’ capacity to deliver these services.

The project will also advocate for more allocation of funds towards maternal and new-born health as well as more efficient use of the allocated funds. Since skilled attendance at delivery is critical to saving the lives of mothers and new-borns, Save the Children will advocate for an equitable distribution of health workers and ensure that their motivation and retention remains a priority.