n African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance - Traditional methods used in determining duration of pregnancy in Malawi

Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1117-4315


Safe motherhood is one of the priorities in the govenrment's developmental agenda. However, maternal mortality rate remains high at 675 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Women continue to seek home-based healthcare due to insufficient modern healthcare facilities, rude hospital personnel and cultural reasons. Although traditional healthcare contributes to maternal healthcare, no studies have been done to understand how pregnancy is managed traditionally. The present study investigated traditional methods through which duration of pregnancy is determined. A mixture of qualitative and quantitative data collection methods were employed namely focus group discussions, key informants and participant observations and questionnaire interviews. Participants included Traditional Medical Practitioners, Traditional Birth Attendants, maternal and child health hospital staff and the general population. Six indicators were documented to be used in determining duration of pregnancy. The most frequently mentioned indicator was degree of tightness of clothes. The other indicators included: length of black line from navel to vaginal area and time-span after last date of menstruation. Despite being illiterate, the study found that traditional birth attendants employ logical and easy to follow techniques which enable them determine duration of pregnancy on monthly basis. This knowledge is crucial hence could be incorporated into the national healthcare delivery service.

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