Cultural beliefs around health and illness are vitally important and HIFA includes many anthropologists and social scientists who can help us  understand and explore these beliefs, and to consider whether and how to challenge beliefs that may be harmful to health. One key area is around pregnancy and child birth. This open-access paper explores beliefs among pregnant women in Zambia.

CITATION: M’soka, N.C., Mabuza, L.H. & Pretorius, D., 2015, ‘Cultural and health beliefs of pregnant women in Zambia regarding pregnancy and child birth’, Curationis 38(1), Art. #1232, 7 pages.


BACKGROUND: Health beliefs related to pregnancy and childbirth exist in various cultures globally. Healthcare practitioners need to be aware of these beliefs so as to contextualise their practice in their communities.

OBJECTIVES: To explore the health beliefs regarding pregnancy and childbirth of women attending the antenatal clinic at Chawama Health Center in Lusaka Zambia.

METHOD: This was a descriptive, cross-sectional survey of women attending antenatal care(n = 294) who were selected by systematic sampling. A researcher-administered questionnaire was used for data collection.

RESULTS: Results indicated that women attending antenatal care at Chawama Clinic held certain beliefs relating to diet, behaviour and the use of medicinal herbs during pregnancy and post-delivery. The main beliefs on diet related to a balanced diet, eating of eggs, okra, bones, offal, sugar cane, alcohol consumption and salt intake. The main beliefs on behaviour related to commencement of antenatal care, daily activities, quarrels, bad rituals, infidelity and the use of condoms during pregnancy. The main beliefs on the use of medicinal herbs were on their use to expedite the delivery process, to assist in difficult deliveries and for body cleansing following a miscarriage.

CONCLUSION: Women attending antenatal care at the Chawama Clinic hold a  number of beliefs regarding pregnancy and childbirth. Those beliefs that are of benefit to the patients should be encouraged with scientific explanations, whilst those posing a health risk should be discouraged respectfully.


‘Regarding the belief that eating eggs can cause a baby to be born without hair, it is of concern that almost a third of the women interviewed were of this opinion.’

‘Approximately one in three of the participants believed that ingesting okra during pregnancy caused excessive salivation of the child.’

‘Since almost three quarters of the respondents agreed with the belief that salt should be avoided during pregnancy, this needs to be addressed by healthcare practitioners. Salt is essential for the body to function normally’

‘The belief on the effect of using condoms during pregnancy was of great concern: about one in four respondents held the belief that using condoms during pregnancy could lead to a weak child, whilst only about half disagreed, and one in five were neutral on this belief.’

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