Focus group discussions involving 100 rural women in five communities of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria were carried out over a six-month period. The aim was to determine if the beliefs and practices of our rural dwellers are such that contribute to maternal morbidity. The discussions revealed that the participants had a shallow knowledge of the causes of complications in pregnancy. Complications were largely attributed to spirits and other harmless events. Reducing physically demanding activities in pregnancy was ascribed to laziness and sexual intercourse was largely to be avoided. There was no food taboos specific to pregnancy, but food restrictions were described. Antenatal and intrapartum care by spiritual and traditional midwives was considered superior to orthodox care. Practices by the midwives include turning a baby in an abnormal lie, massaging the vagina with oil in labour; conducting delivery without gloves, pulling on the cord, manually removing or squeezing out the placenta if delivery is not spontaneous. Management of complications involves divinations, use of herbs and other concoctions, anointing oil, prayers and fasting. Puerperal seclusion practiced to varying degrees and maybe beneficial. Most beliefs and practices of our rural women are potential contributors to maternal morbidity. A few are harmless or even beneficial. Public enlightenment and education of our rural dwellers while incorporating the harmless/beneficial practices into modern obstetric care services will help reduce maternal morbidity.
KEYWORDS: Pregnancy, Beliefs and Practices