Health belief dualism in the postnatal practices of rural Swazi women: An ethnographic account

Siphiwe B.P. Thwala, Eleanor Holroyd, Linda K. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study explores and describes the values, beliefs, and practices of rural Swazi women regarding childbearing in the postpartum period. Method: A retrospective ethnographic research design was used. A snowballing sampling method was used to recruit fifteen participants. Face-to-face unstructured audio-taped interviews and field notes were utilised to gather data. Findings: Results showed that rural Swazi women held a dual health belief system of modern and traditional medicinal use; practiced lengthy periods of postpartum confinement; customarily gave regular enemas and traditional medicines to their babies; undertook the specific cultural practice of taking the baby to enyonini [a tree struck by lightening] to perform specific rituals; used self-prescribed pharmacy medicines; used both traditional and modern contraception; as well as practiced breastfeeding. Conclusion: Rural Swazi women observe modern health practices alongside traditional customary practices that are inherent to their health belief and value systems in the postnatal period. These customary beliefs and values underpin their birth practices postpartum. Recommendations include the need to consider including formal knowledge on cultural aspects of childbirth and postpartum care into midwifery education; a review of maternal care practices and policies to incorporate widely practised traditional elements including redressing the use of self-prescribed pharmacy medicines to ensure a higher level of safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e68-e74
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cultural practices
  • Health beliefs
  • Postnatal care
  • Swaziland
  • Values


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