A Kenyan Journalist Writing About Health

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

What Foods Should a Pregnant Woman Eat? Should Pregnant Women Eat Liver?

What foods should a pregnant woman eat to ensure she maintains a healthy pregnancy and delivers a healthy baby? There is also lots of talk that pregnant women should not eat liver. How true is that? Dr. Stephen Mutiso, a consultant obstetrician / gynaecologist gives us answers to this.

What Foods Should You Eat While Pregnant?

Pregnant women should eat healthy foods in order to provide adequate nutrition to the growing baby. A pregnant woman must strive to eat a balanced diet, as this is crucial for the healthy development of the baby.

A diet is balanced if it contains the following: starch, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Thankfully, many of our locally available foods are rich in these nutrients, and they are affordable.

Foods rich in starch include ugali, rice, chapati and potatoes. Common sources of proteins include beans, peas, fish, milk, eggs and meat. There are many fruits and vegetables available locally which are a good source of vitamins and nutrients and include spinach and sukuma wiki.

It is also important to note that the demand for iron in pregnancy is very high and cannot be met purely through foods. That is why iron supplementation is recommended during pregnancy.

A high intake of fiber and water is recommended during pregnancy, as it helps to reduce constipation because pregnancy slows down bowel movement.

What about Liver During Pregnancy? Should you or Should you not Eat?

It is not advisable to eat foods rich in vitamin A –such as liver or if eaten, they should be eaten in moderation. This also applies to supplements that contain high doses of vitamin A. This is because high doses of this vitamin have been associated with significant birth defects, hence caution to avoid prenatal vitamins containing this vitamin. This caution is especially important for women planning to get pregnant, and during the first trimester of pregnancy when the organs are forming.

Pregnant women are also advised to avoid raw and undercooked meat which may increase risk of acquiring toxoplasmosis which may affect the baby.

Alcohol must be avoided at all times.

Should I be Eating for Two When Pregnant?

From a nutritional point of view, a pregnant woman eats for two, hence the need for her to eat nutritious food. However, this does not mean eating twice as much in pregnancy. She should focus on ensuring she eats quality food, not quantity food. Eating too much is bad both for the mother and baby and could lead to problems.

How Much Weight Should I Gain During Pregnancy?

Weight gain during pregnancy is vital in preparation for breastfeeding. The recommended weight gain for non-obese women by the end of pregnancy is 10-12kg.This translates to about 0.5kg per week. If one is obese, the recommended weight gain is about 8kg.Weight loss during pregnancy is not recommended, so one should not be on a weight-loss diet.

Most of the weight gain occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy when nausea and vomiting has reduced or even ceased.

Gaining too much weight increases the risk of gestational diabetes, backache, high blood pressure and a likely caesarean section due to a big baby. Too little weight gain can lead to low birth weight and premature birth.

Dr. Stephen Mutiso is based in Nairobi, and he provides a wide range of gynaecological services including: antenatal care, delivery (normal and caesarean), infertility treatment, fibroids, fistula issues, and screening for reproductive tract cancers, and gynaecological operations.

He is based at KNH Doctor’s Plaza, Suite 26/27

Tel: 0722 678 002 or 0788 306 674

Email: Website

Post originally published in Mummy Tales – A blog by a Kenyan mom.


Malaria in Kenya: The Facts

Today is World Malaria Day. Even though Kenya has made great strides over the last 10 years in the fight against the disease, alot more still needs to be done, as malaria is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Kenya.

Here is a glance of Malaria situation in Kenya:

  •  25 million out of a population of 34 million Kenyans are at risk of malaria.
  • It accounts for 30-50% of all outpatient attendance and 20% of all admissions to health facilities.
  • An estimated 170 million working days are lost to the disease each year (MOH 2001).
  • Malaria is also estimated to cause 20% of all deaths in children under five (MOH 2006).
  • The most vulnerable group to malaria infections are pregnant women and children under 5 years of age.
  •  Malaria is preventable and curable. (Source: KEMRI).

The government has a 10-year Kenyan National Malaria Strategy (KNMS) 2009-2017. The goal of the National Malaria Strategy is to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with malaria by 30% by 2009 and to maintain it to 2017.

Here are more elaborations on Kenya’s malaria situation. 


Malaria mappingmalaria

Malaria mothersatrisk

Malaria DiagnosingMalaria

Malaria Knowledgegap

Malaria Treatingthefever

source of data graphics and information: InternewsKenya


My Husband’s Support Kept Me Going When I Had Breast Cancer -Violet Mulama

Three years ago, Violet Mulama, 53, began observing that her left breast was gradually hardening.  Even though the mother of five, a primary school teacher in Kitale was not in any pain, it gave her sleepless nights because it was something she had never seen or felt before. Not one to take any chances, she decided to see a doctor about it.

The doctor she saw referred her to Eldoret for further tests; a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy. All results showed that while there was a mass overlapping her entire breast, it was not cancerous. Relieved that the lump was not life-threatening, Violet went back home, thankful that she would live to see another day.

However, as days went by, the mass continued hardening and she decided to apply some herbal remedies on the breast in a bid to soften it.  She also decided to undergo therapy sessions with a Ceragem Thermal Massage machine, which is a massager that places heat and pressure to specific parts of the body and is said to among others; help relieve pain, increase blood circulation, loosen muscles and take away stress.

But Violet still did not feel any better and if anything, the lump in her breast only became harder. Worse, she had now developed chest pains, was coughing a lot, was having recurrent sore throats, shortness of breath and was experiencing lots of heavy night sweats.

She went back to hospital and this time, blood tests showed she had typhoid and was given antibiotics. Unfortunately, Violet continued feeling pain and the drugs did nothing to offer her the relief she needed. It was then that she decided to consult a specialist doctor in Eldoret town where she was referred for more tests; a breast ultrasound, a chest x-ray and a biopsy.

The results were not good. Violet had cancer, which was fast spreading. In just six months, the lump had moved from being non-cancerous, to cancerous. She was saddened by this news, believing that her end had come.


The doctor then referred her to specialist doctor in Nairobi for further consultation. At the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi, Violet and her husband received more bad news – that her cancer was at an advanced stage and she therefore needed immediate surgery to prevent it from spreading further.

After a difficult time fundraising for the required money, Violent underwent a successful mastectomy, which is a surgery done to remove a breast or part of a breast and is done to treat breast cancer. Violet’s affected breast was removed.

Following the surgery, there was no time to rest as she immediately began chemotherapy, a form of cancer treatment that involves the use of chemicals that work towards disabling or destroying cancer cells. She was to undergo eight sessions in total. But the side effects of the chemotherapy sessions were an agonizing and unpleasant experience for Violet.

“I would get severe headaches, I would vomit everything I ate, I would experience bad nausea, loss of breath, I was coughing and my body was generally weak. After my first chemotherapy session, I collapsed and had to be admitted in hospital for six days,” she remembers.

The second time she went for chemotherapy, her body went through the same rigors and once again, she collapsed and had to be admitted for another six days. All these events were taking their toll on her – physically, emotionally and mentally.

“I was devastated. I had never felt such pain and weakness in my life. I knew I was dying. My body was in so much distress that I felt I could not handle it anymore,” she remembers.


The only thing that kept Violet going was the support from her husband.

“Having observed my defeatist attitude, my husband one day sat me down and told me that we had five children who needed me around. His firm words of reprimand are what jolted me into reality, and I knew that I had to soldier on,” she remembers.

Violet’s husband once never left her side, and even had to incur businesses losses back home in Kitale as he stayed in Nairobi for months, putting up with relatives just so that he could be by his wife’s side.

With renewed strength, Violet managed to go through the remaining chemotherapy sessions, albeit with lots of difficulty.

Sis weeks later, she began radiotherapy sessions. Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses high levels of radiation to destroy cancer cells, or stop them from growing and dividing.

Violet successfully completed her radiotherapy sessions in September 2012, and is today living a healthy life.

The Facts on Breast Cancer

Breast cancer develops in the breast tissue, primarily in the milk ducts. The first sign of breast cancer often is the feeling of a lump in the breast or the underarm, or an abnormal mammogram test result. A mammogram is an x-ray done on the breast and is used to detect and evaluate any changes in the breast.

According to Dr. Michelle Lang’o of the pharmaceutical company Novartis Pharma, and who has worked as a Medical Officer at Nairobi Hospice and is today heavily involved in breast cancer treatment and management says the exact causes of breast cancer are unknown, though there are certain risk factors.

“Having one first-degree blood relative with breast cancer such as a mother, sister or daughter doubles a woman’s risk of getting it too. Having two first-degree relatives increases a woman’s risk by about three-fold,” she says.

Dr. Lang’o adds that a woman with cancer in one breast has an increased risk of developing a new cancer in the other breast or in another part of the same breast.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breast cancer is the leading cancer in women worldwide, comprising 16% of all female cancers. Even though previously thought to be a disease of the developing world, statistics offer different insights into this.

The 2004 WHO Global of Disease Burden report indicated that 69% of breast cancer deaths occurred in the developing world. WHO says that certain factors could be attributable to this growing trend, such as increase in life expectancy, increased urbanization and the adoption of western lifestyles by those in the developing countries.

Dr. Lang’o says it is hard to put an exact figure of the number of breast cancer in Kenya because there lacks a national cancer registry.

While breast cancer is best treatable when detected early, many breast cancer cases in the developing world are unfortunately diagnosed when it’s too late – when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. This leads to a high death rate from the disease.



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