Influence of pregnancy perceptions on patterns of seeking antenatal care among women in reproductive age of Masaka District, Uganda
Maternal mortality remains a challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa including Uganda. Antenatal Care (ANC) is one of the recommended measures to improve maternal and child health. However, the influence of pregnancy definition and perception on patterns of seeking regular and timely antenatal care among women in the reproductive age group (15-49 years) is not known. The objectives of this study were to: (i) understand the women’s social definitions and perceptions on their pregnancy; (ii) understand the socio-cultural beliefs related to pregnancy among women of the reproductive age group; and, (iii) examine the influence of social definitions, perceptions and beliefs about pregnancy on women’s antenatal care seeking behaviour patterns to inform the decentralised health care delivery system in Uganda. A total of 45 women, mothers and expectant women who were purposively selected from Kimanya sub county of Masaka district in Uganda participated in the study. Ten key informant interviews and four Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were also conducted. Key findings indicate that the women’s socio-definitions and perceptions of pregnancy influence their seeking behaviour on antenatal health care. To the women with a positive orientation towards antenatal care, pregnancy provides joy, happiness, pride, promotes their social status and safe-guards their marriage. Pregnancy is rewarding with care, love, support and gifts. Women who shun antenatal care perceive pregnancy to be a source of misery, sadness, pain and suffering. It is an uncomfortable and regrettable experience. Women also hold socio-cultural beliefs on pregnancy, which are culturally constructed and rooted in taboos, rituals and practices of their communities. It is therefore important to sensitise women and those who attend to them when they are pregnant to understand these perceptions and definitions to motivate them to seek antenatal and postnatal care for better maternal and child health.