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Prolonged sexual abstinence after childbirth: gendered norms and perceived family health risks. Focus group discussions in a Tanzanian suburb
Department of Community Health Nursing, School of Nursing, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health. (Internationell kvinno- & mödrahälsovård/Essén)
Department of Women's and Children's health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
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2013 (English)In: BMC International Health and Human Rights, ISSN 1472-698X, Vol. 13, no 1, 4- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

Prolonged sexual abstinence after childbirth is a socio-cultural practice with health implications, and is described in several African countries, including Tanzania. This study explored discourses on prolonged postpartum sexual abstinence in relation to family health after childbirth in low-income suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Methods

Data for the discourse analysis were collected through focus group discussions with first-time mothers and fathers and their support people in Ilala, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Results

In this setting, prolonged sexual abstinence intended at promoting child health was the dominant discourse in the period after childbirth. Sexual relations after childbirth involved the control of sexuality for ensuring family health and avoiding the social implications of non-adherence to sexual abstinence norms. Both abstinence and control were emphasised more with regard to women than to men. Although the traditional discourse on prolonged sexual abstinence for protecting child health was reproduced in Ilala, some modern aspects such as the use of condoms and other contraceptives prevailed in the discussion.

Conclusion

Discourses on sexuality after childbirth are instrumental in reproducing gender-power inequalities, with women being subjected to more restrictions and control than men are. Thus, interventions that create openness in discussing sexual relations and health-related matters after childbirth and mitigate gendered norms suppressing women and perpetuating harmful behaviours are needed. The involvement of males in the interventions would benefit men, women, and children through improving the gender relations that promote family health.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 13, no 1, 4- p.
Keyword [en]
sexual abstinence, first-time parents, gender relations, childbirth, FGD, Tanzania
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-150869DOI: 10.1186/1472-698X-13-4ISI: 000317465400001PubMedID: 23316932OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-150869DiVA: diva2:409224
Available from: 2011-04-07 Created: 2011-04-06 Last updated: 2013-05-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Striving to Promote Family Health after Childbirth: Studies in Low-Income Suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Striving to Promote Family Health after Childbirth: Studies in Low-Income Suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Deeper understanding of family health and support after childbirth from the perspective of first-time parents and their informal support network is needed. Postpartum experiences and health concerns of first-time mothers and fathers and, discourses on sexuality and informal support after childbirth were explored in low-income, suburban areas in Ilala, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Individual qualitative interviews with first-time mothers (n=10) and fathers (n=10), and 14 focus group discussions with first-time parents (n=40) and informal support persons (n=42) provided the data, which were analyzed through qualitative content and discourse analysis.

First-time parents’ areas of concern were newborn care and hygiene, infant feeding, handling crying infant, maternal nutrition and hygiene, uncertain body changes for the mother and, sexuality. The mothers were burdened with caring responsibilities and fathers felt neglected and excluded from the care of the mother and infant after childbirth, both by the families and the health care system. Sexuality after childbirth created tension between new parents due to the understanding that abstinence would protect child health during the breastfeeding period, which could be several years. Women’s adherence to sexual abstinence was more emphasized compared to men’s. Men’s engagement with other sex partners and the risk of contraction HIV was a threat to family health.

First-time parents drew on support from both informal and formal sources. Informal support networks played a major role in providing information, materials, guidance and supervision while conveying stereotypic gender norms. Contradictions in the messages to parents within and between the support systems created uncertainties that might have negative implications for family health. Poor parents and those who did not adherence to the social norms were less likely to get informal support than others were.

There is a need for information and practical guidance on basic aspects of care for the mother and infant, male involvement, and the importance of social support to first-time parents, as new parents face physical, social and relational challenges after childbirth. The link between the health care system and informal networks need to be strengthened to enable them to complement each other in promoting family health after child health.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Uppsala University, 2011. 54 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 668
Keyword
First-time parents, postpartum, Health promotion, sexuality, informal support, qualitative, suburban Tanzania
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-150924 (URN)978-91-554-8065-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2011-05-24, Rosénsalen, Akademiska sjukhuset, ing 95/96, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-05-03 Created: 2011-04-07 Last updated: 2011-07-01Bibliographically approved

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