n Indilinga African Journal of Indigenous Knowledge Systems - Traditional methods used in family planning and conception in Malawi : a case study of Mulanje District

Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1683-0296



Malawi's maternal mortality remains high (984 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births). Due to insufficient health care facilities, cultural reasons and people's perception that modern hospital staff is rude, many women resort to home-based health care. However, there is a lack of information on how pregnancy-related issues are managed traditionally. The article is based on a study that investigated traditional methods used in family planning and conception. Focus-group discussions, use of key informants, questionnaire and interviews were the research methods used.

In Malawi family planning methods used are the common modern methods. Traditional methods include breast feeding, abstinence and the wearing of a waist ring made from traditional medicine. Twenty-six indicators were reportedly used in ascertaining if a woman has conceived. Lightening of the woman's complexion was, by far, the most commonly mentioned indicator.
Although most of the respondents had no or low formal education, they had vast indigenous knowledge of family planning and conception-related issues. Interestingly, some of the indigenous practices used are similar to the techniques used in modern hospitals. Considering that women continue to successfully conceive and deliver in villages, modern hospitals could tap into indigenous knowledge and incorporate it into the national health care delivery service. Researchers should document the available indigenous knowledge before they are forgotten while ascertaining the validity of some of the methods.

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