Original Research

Maternal experiences of caring for preterm infants in a vulnerable South African population

Kristen Buys, Berna Gerber
Health SA Gesondheid | Vol 26 | a1549 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v26i0.1549 | © 2021 Kristen Buys, Berna Gerber | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 September 2020 | Published: 30 July 2021

About the author(s)

Kristen Buys, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Therapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Berna Gerber, Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Therapy, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Caring for a preterm infant is known to be a stressful experience as these infants are at a high risk of medical sequelae and developmental delays. Early intervention is imperative for the best developmental outcome for the infant. Such interventions are often delivered through the mother or primary caregiver; however, healthcare professionals are seldom aware of all the factors that influence maternal well-being, potentially influencing her ability to provide optimal care.

Aim: To explore the experiences of a group of vulnerable women, namely, isiXhosa-speaking mothers of preterm infants living in low socio-economic circumstances in the Western Cape province of South Africa, regarding having, caring for and feeding their preterm infants within the first 6 months of the infant’s life.

Setting: A follow-up clinic for preterm infants and their mothers at a public tertiary hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods: The study employed a qualitative, cross-sectional design that was explorative and contextual in nature. A discussion schedule was used to guide 15 in-depth interviews with mothers that were later thematically analysed.

Results: Social support and religion positively influenced maternal coping. The infant’s medical stability was the main concern for mothers and concerns regarding the infant’s development did not arise. Prematurity influenced mothers’ decisions to use traditional medicines and hospital care affected some traditional practices.

Conclusion: The study findings highlighted the influence of traditional and religious beliefs, the importance of the cultural education of medical staff members and a support system to improve maternal experiences.

Contribution: The findings provide insights into maternal experiences with implications for healthcare practitioners’ continued education in an ethnically diverse setting.


Keywords

preterm birth; mother; early intervention; speech-language therapy; low socio-economic; feeding methods; culture; social support

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