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Health SA Gesondheid (Online)

On-line version ISSN 2071-9736
Print version ISSN 1025-9848


BUYS, Kristen  and  GERBER, Berna. Maternal experiences of caring for preterm infants in a vulnerable South African population. Health SA Gesondheid (Online) [online]. 2021, vol.26, pp.1-10. ISSN 2071-9736.

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 careAIM: 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 lifeSETTING: A follow-up clinic for preterm infants and their mothers at a public tertiary hospital in Cape Town, South AfricaMETHODS: 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 analysedRESULTS: 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 practicesCONCLUSION: 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 experiencesCONTRIBUTION: 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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