Factors affecting maternal health seeking behaviour in a Yoruba community of Nigeria: an analysis of socio-cultural beliefs and practices.
Dada, Ayoola Adekunle.
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The significance of mothers to the overall sustenance of maternal health care cannot be overemphasized, despite this fact, however, there is an increasing gap between the developed and the developing countries in terms of morbidity and mortality and mothers‘ survival at prenatal, delivery and postnatal periods. In spite of the great efforts that have been put forth to achieve the 8th ―Millennium Development Goals‖, much work is yet to be done to assuring maternal health for women especially in Sub Saharan Africa The study involved a survey of 196 women aged 15-45+ years in Ido/Osi LGA in Ekiti of Nigeria which established maternal health seeking as inseparable from the socio-economic and cultural contexts in which they occur. Employing field methods from Medical Sociology and Demography, the study argues that maternal health seeking transcends the boundaries of either of these disciplines and that their comprehensive understanding entails the collaboration of both. Its specific objectives encompassed: (1) an investigation of the influence of cultural beliefs and practices on maternal health seeking (2) examination of the relationship between the social demographic characteristics of women and maternal health seeking and; (3) an assessment of the impact of the existing social structure on maternal health seeking. The model of behavioral change in public health, rational choice theory, location theory and feminist theory enable the study to highlight the links between socio-cultural variables and maternal health seeking by showing the strength of their separate and collective relationships. Data were collected by triangulation of in-depth interviews and the survey questionnaire. The qualitative data were analyzed through manual content analysis to identify the socio-cultural variables associated with factors affecting maternal health seeking; quantitative data were analyzed by using frequency distributions tables for univariate while cross tabulation was used with the aid of SPSS version 22 for bivariate analysis, Microsoft Excel 2013 for the charts and STATA version 12 for the T-Test. The result of the survey reveals that factors such as socio-economic, beliefs and cultural practices of the Yoruba people, to a large extent affect maternal health seeking. Some of the specific findings include: Patriarchy to great extent has a strong impact on maternal health seeking; majority of women in Yoruba community have strong beliefs in the efficacy of herbs in pregnancy management and child bearing; and that attitude of health workers also impair health seeking. The study therefore recommends that community mobilization should be geared towards ensuring that appropriate health-seeking behaviour becomes part of local social norms. Community education must address traditional beliefs about pregnancy related complications that are often blamed on women behaviour, fate, evil influences and other factors beyond the reach of the health care system. Due to the fact that Yoruba society is patriarchal in nature, men also should be educated on the intricacies that revolve around maternal health because, they dominate family decision-making. Also there is a need to strengthen policies and capacity building, training of health care providers, for improved quality of care and sustained research on reproductive health among the Yoruba people of Nigeria.