“Untreated TB
represents a far greater hazard to a pregnant woman and her fetus than does
treating the disease.” {CDC (2003, 62)}

Anne Wairimu is a  mother of one and currently on treatment for MDRTB. She has been retreated for
TB on three different occasions and she confesses that she has never defaulted  in her TB treatment course.

Hers is a very sad  story on what Tuberculosis can do to a mother.  Like other people who have had Tuberculosis,
hers started with a persistent cough which resisted local remedies thus  prompting her to go to hospital where she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis.  She diligently finished her first treatment
course but she had a relapse a couple of months later. She was put on  retreatment and after she was through with the second treatment course she
thought she had left her worst nightmare behind her, only for her to continue  coughing and having severe chest pains. A third screening showed she was still
Tuberculosis smear positive and once more she had to start anti TB medication.

At around this time she  also discovered that she was pregnant. She however continued with the TB treatment
not knowing what effect the drugs have on her unborn child.

The risk of not  treating Tuberculosis in an expectant woman, are much greater to her and her
unborn child than treating the disease.  Women with untreated TB risk giving birth to
premature babies or children with lower birth weight who may also be born with
TB.

In December 2010, shortly  after finishing her second trimester, Anne delivered a baby before her term  ended to a child who was underweight and sickly. At this time Anne was still  taking her TB medication and she was told her child had severe pneumonia and  was put on treatment. However, her baby’s health did not improve even after two  months of pneumonia treatment.  A certain  doctor told them that the child had heart problems and referred them to a heart
specialist.

Meanwhile the baby had  not yet received his BCG shot as the doctor had advised against it by virtue of
the fact that he had pneumonia, but a nurse at Machakos District Hospital  seeing that the child had not been immunized two months after delivery went
ahead and gave the baby the BCG shot. When Anne complained against it the Nurse  dismissed her telling her that she knew her work.

Days after this, the  baby refused to breastfeed and was not moving. He looked tired and weak and
would vomit when breastfed. That night the baby was not responding to the  mother’s touch and the nurses tried to give him oxygen but he died shortly
thereafter.

This was a painful loss  to Anne which she accepted as part of life. A month later in March, Ann
completed her TB treatment course but she continued having the TB symptoms and  after further tests she was diagnosed as having MDRTB. She started MDRTB
treatment in June of this year and is currently taking her medication.

According to Dr.  Sitienei head of the Division of Leprosy, Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases in
Kenya, pregnant women should be treated as soon as TB is detected as this will
reduce the chances of her passing TB to her unborn child or herself getting sicker.
But he notes that the best option would be to advocate for family planning for
women who have been diagnosed with Tuberculosis.

Is it possible the  medicines Anne was taking played a role in the loss of her baby? When the baby
was born  he was not tested for TB but  was diagnosed with severe pneumonia from observation, would he have lived if a
TB test could have been done on him to rule out his having been born with TB?  These and many more questions will continue to weigh greatly in Anne’s mind and
the answers will always remain a puzzle to her.

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