The use of neem (Dogonyaro) leaves by women for postpartum care has drastically reduced in major cities and towns across Bauchi and Kano states.
Findings indicate that sustained awareness campaign against cultural practices, the need to embrace hospital antenatal care during pregnancy, caesarean delivery, as well as economic hardship are some of the reasons responsible for the reduction of the practice in Bauchi.
A mother of two, Elizabeth Kar, said during antenatal classes in hospitals, pregnant women are being advised to stop the use of neem leaves during postpartum period. They are instead encouraged to embrace modern healthcare services.
Kar said, “The increased rate of caesarean deliveries has also contributed to the reduction in the use of neem leaves because women who undergo surgery hardly engage in such practice.
“Another reason for the reduction in the use of neem leaves is the economic situation, especially in cities where the cost of firewood to boil the water has gone up. I am a mother of two and I had the towel process of postpartum care after the two deliveries,” Kar said.
Corroborating Elizabeth, a mother of five, who gave her name as Safiya, told Daily Trust Saturday that she abandoned the neem leaves postpartum care after her third child.
“I was advised at the hospital to stop the neem practice following the discovery of health challenges including hypertension and diabetic during my third pregnancy. Since then, I just take painkillers during my postpartum period.”
Another mother of three, Maryam Iliya, said she did not practice the neem leaves postpartum care due to the caesarean delivery of all her three children. “The neem leaves postpartum practice is our family tradition but I didn’t do it even for once because the hospital warned me about the implications and I obeyed their instructions, and today I am living healthy.”
Investigation also revealed that many women still use the neem leaves for postpartum care due to cultural beliefs and practices in both urban and rural areas.
A mother of seven, Asabe Garba, told Daily Trust Saturday that she used the neem leaves postpartum care for all her seven deliveries. “It is a traditional method that helps to restore the health condition of a woman after delivery. I don’t believe in the hospital advise of using injection to restore my health condition during postpartum care because throughout my 18 years period of child bearing, I did not witness any health challenge because I use the neem leaves during my postpartum care.”
In Kano, the incorporation of traditional birth attendants by various health intervention programmes in the state has contributed to the success accomplished during the awareness campaigns. Many mothers interviewed in Kano told Daily Trust Saturday that they stopped the traditional practice of using neem due to some health challenges.
Hajiya Hadiza, a mother of seven, said she observed the neem process from her first child to the fifth, but stopped due to health challenges.
“I had complications during my seventh pregnancy; I was diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes, so the hospital advised me not to use neem on my body any more. I had no choice than to comply. But I can tell you I didn’t feel normal throughout the period,” she stated.
Similarly, Zaliha Sani, a mother of four, said she prefers the use of neem leaves during postpartum care and will continue using it because she’s never experienced any complications.
“During my first and second births, I used neem leaves for postpartum care but when I delivered my third child, I embraced the modern healthcare processes. However, I didn’t get the satisfaction I was getting while using neem. But when I reverted to the use of neem, my health condition became restored within a week. I recovered from the back pain, stomach ache, etc. within a short period of time. That was the reason why when I had my fourth child, I went back to the old practice of using neem leaves for bathing. I believe it is the best therapy for nursing mothers,” she said.
She added that she once went to see her friend who put to birth, and found her complaining of body pains. She advised her to try the neem leaf bath which she did.
“After she used it, she called me to extend her appreciation for giving her the advice because she recovered quickly from the body pain. That is why even if I deliver a hundred times, I will stick to the old practice of the use of neem,” she concluded.
According to an elderly mother, Hajiya Hadiza Bello, the use of neem leaves for postpartum care cannot be over emphasised as it makes a nursing mother stronger and agile.
“The importance of the use of neem leaves is far beyond what one can ordinarily explain. In terms of strength, you cannot compare the women of our time with those of this generation who are not observing the old practice. The women of our generation can do their house chores round the clock without getting tired but many women these days cannot do without a house maid.”
Another elderly woman, Hajiya Binta Ali, said up till now, they have not stopped observing the practice of neem leaves for post-partum care in their family.
“As the oldest person in the family, I can’t allow my grandchildren to abandon this very important practice. I make sure all of them use the neem leaves for at least forty days after childbirth. This neem you are seeing is a strong medicine for period, it cures a lot of postpartum problems which occur after childbirth. It makes all the blood clots to come out without the woman having abdominal pain.
“Another thing people don’t know about the neem leaves is that as you wash your body with it, your skin becomes clean and radiant. Therefore, all the blemishes that women get during pregnancy will disappear. And we also consume a certain amount of neem on a daily basis, which we believe destroys the troublesome bacteria in the intestinal region, and your colon will generally remain clean and free of infection,” she narrated.
Investigation by Daily Trust Saturday revealed that other reasons why women stopped using neem has to do with poverty, as people find it difficult to afford the cost of fire wood to boil the water.
Malama Kubura Alkasim told our correspondent that some years ago, things were cheaper and available.
“In those days when the economy was better, if a woman gives birth, she bathes with hot water together with neem leaves twice a day—morning and evening, for at least 40 days or even beyond. The parent or a relative will heat the water in a big pot—about two big buckets, for her to bath with. And now, you can imagine the amount of money the husband will spend on gas or firewood to heat the water. That is why women nowadays don’t use it regularly. Some may do it for two to three weeks,” she said.
On why hospitals advice against neem hot water bath, a family health doctor Abdullahi Ismail said that the use of hot water with neem leaves by nursing women during postpartum care is unhealthy.
“The use of hot water with neem leaves during postpartum care is not healthy to the nursing mothers as it does more harm than good to them. We advise them to eat balance diet instead of relying on the cultural practices.
“In those days people were healthy and they ate good food, so even when they use that hot water nothing happens to them. But nowadays especially, in the rural areas where women do not get food, when a hungry nursing mothers use hot water on their body the next thing to happen to them is to start bleeding. And before you know it they would be diagnosed with hypertension and other relevant diseases.”
Doctor Ismail added that “We always advocate for balance diet for them. We want them to get good food which will equally restore what they have lost during delivery and to give them energy to feed their babies well.”