Swazi rural women prefer giving birth at home

Many rural Swazi women are still not satisfied with the treatment they receive in hospitals while giving birth, which explains why a lot of them still prefer giving birth at home, a new research conducted in the northern Hhohho region suggests.

The study was presented at the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) triennial congress held in Durban recently and it drew the attention of participants who were eager to know why Swazi women living in rural areas still prefer giving birth at home.
The research was conducted by University of Swaziland (UNISWA) faculty of health sciences lecturer S’phiwe Thwala.
The research paper has been published in leading journals of international acclaim.
Key findings show that rural Swazi women are still fond of traditional antidotes, and that when pregnant, the practice of using traditional herbs alongside western style medicine is common amongst pregnant women.
“Rural Swazi women utilise biomedical maternity services whilst still strongly adhering to traditional practices and beliefs during labour,” it was established.
The main purpose of conducting the study was to explore and describe beliefs, values and practices of rural Swazi women during labour of which a midwifery perspective can be drawn. One of a few studies to be conducted on midwifery practice and tendencies of pregnant Swazi women, the study shows that rural Swazi women mostly do not use a single health belief system but tend to use dual health belief systems, and that their birth practices are therefore influenced by both belief systems rather than one.
Thwala acknowledged that further research needs to be done to investigate the specific traditional medicines and rituals used during childbirth to establish whether they promote the wellbeing of both the mother and the baby from a biomedical perspective.
Another shocking finding is the fact that a large proportion of pregnant women deliberately opt to give birth at home because they find hospitals to be very uncomfortable.
 Also, apart from the general disliking of hospitals, rural Swazi women continue to be faced with challenges such as uneasy access to transport, long distances to the nearest care centres from villages and high cost of public transport factors discovered to discourage women from using health services in childbirth.
Thwala highlighted a finding in the study that pregnant women tend to understand traditional healers more than nurses in hospitals. “There currently exists a communication breakdown between health care professionals in Swaziland who are trained to the biomedical model of childbirth and care and the women in the village who identify more with the traditional medicine model of care and are the intended recipients of the care.”

Implications of home births in Swaziland
Giving birth at home without skilled birth attendants definitely comes with its own implications felt by rural Swazi women with a general dislike of hospitals because of the unsatisfactory treatment midwives subject them to.

Apart from the risk of complications and even death that women face when giving birth on their own at home, the study conducted by University of Swaziland lecturer S’phiwe Thwala shows home births often result in non-repair of perinea sensitive tissues, delayed clamping of the umbilical cord which can result in infections, and the non-use of routine vaginal examinations during labour. 
Researcher Thwala pointed out the need for strengthening community midwifery care to Swazi women.

“The study also points to a need to strengthen community midwifery in order to bring professional midwifery care to Swazi women thereby facilitating access in the face of inadequate infrastructure and inadequate resources,” one of the conclusions reads.
By Hlengiwe Ndlovu 

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