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What you need to know about the early stages of life

When 24 year old Chidinma Nwoye woke up in the middle of the night sweating and feeling weak, she did not see any reason to panic. She got a glass of cold water, walked into her living room, grabbed a copy of a lifestyle magazine and then lay in her couch. It was not long before she started vomiting and feeling nausea. She thought she had got the Malaria “bug”. Like most people in Nigerian, who are deeply rooted in the culture of self medication, she walked to her medicine cabinet and got anti malaria tablets.

In the morning, her husband Kingsley decided to take her to a clinic near their home in Dolphin estate, a middle class area in Lagos, Nigeria. The doctor advised her to take a pregnancy test which turned positive. The couple was elated but soon the thought of the dangers they had exposed their now forming baby, the challenges of pregnancy and the responsibilities of raising an addition to the family started weighing in.

The fact that Chidinma had no idea about her pregnancy status before the test is not unusual. The early signs of pregnancy are usually confused with malaria symptoms by many women especially those who live or travel to malaria hotbeds.  This is one of the reasons why pregnancy tests for sexually active women is essential.

This is not only a story of what many newly married couples in Nigeria and by extension the African continent face, but this also marks a challenging phase in a couple’s life that can lead to serious depression in the family if the couple does not have the right information on what to expect and do, especially the first 1,000 days when the child is most vulnerable.

From the first day of pregnancy until 2 years of age, all organs and tissues are being formed. The early stages of life are the most sensitive in the growth and development of the baby. This period is characterized by rapid growth and development. Therefore, this stage offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the long-term health of the child.