Understanding women’s experiences of distress during pregnancy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Abstract: Several studies show depression is common during pregnancy. However, there is limited information in Tanzania on the magnitude of perceived distress during pregnancy and meanings ascribed to such distress. A descriptive survey collected data using unstructured interviews from 12 traditional practitioners and 10 peri-urban women with previous pregnancy related mental health concerns identified using a depression vignette. The objectives were to describe the sources and characteristics of distress during pregnancy, and idioms of distress that could inform cultural adaptation of depression screening tools. Narrative analysis showed an emergent category of “problematic pregnancies” framed women’s recollections of prolonged periods of sadness. This experience was qualified using various idioms of distress that were differentially emphasized depending on informant’s perceived causes of health concern. The idiom kusononeka was consistently used to describe extreme sadness across causal categories and clustered with at least two typical features of major depression. This suggested existence of a construct with similarities to biomedical criteria for depression. “Thinking too much” emerged as a distinctive expression associated with prolonged sadness. Distinctive expressions of social functioning impairments were identified that can inform depression severity assessments. In conclusion, contextual inquiry into experiences of psychological distress showed distinct local idioms that clustered in patterns similar to symptoms of biomedical depressive episodes. Further studies to assess the utility of local idioms of distress and distress related functional impairment in depression assessment tools are warranted.