Striving to Promote Family Health after Childbirth Studies in Low-Income Suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

University dissertation from Uppsala : Uppsala University

Abstract: 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.