In a newly published article, ‘Perceptions and decision-making with regard to pregnancy among HIV positive women in rural Maputo Province, Mozambique – a qualitative study‘ in BMC Women’s Health, Cuinhane, C. E., Roelens, K., Vanroelen, C., Quive, S., & Coene, G examine what influences women’s experiences and decisions regarding pregnancy.
In preventing the transfer of HIV to their children, the Ministry of Health in Mozambique recommends all couples follow medical advice prior to a pregnancy. However, little is known about how such women experience pregnancy, nor the values they adhere to when making childbearing decisions. This qualitative study explores perceptions and decision-making processes regarding pregnancy among HIV positive women in rural Maputo Province.
In-depth interviews and five focus group discussions with fifty-nine women who had recently become mothers were carried out. In addition, six semi-structured interviews were held with maternity and child health nurses. The ethnographic methods employed here were guided by Bourdieu’s practice theory.
The study indicated that women often perceived pregnancy as a test of fertility and identity. It was not only viewed as a rite of passage from childhood to womanhood, but also as a duty for married women to have children. Most women did not follow recommended medical advice prior to gestation. This was primarily due to perceptions that decision-making about pregnancy was regarded as a private issue not requiring consultation with a healthcare provider. Additionally, stigmatisation of women living with HIV, lack of knowledge about the need to consult a healthcare provider prior to pregnancy, and unintended pregnancy due to inadequate use of contraceptive were crucial factors.
Women’s experiences and decisions regarding pregnancy are more influenced by social and cultural norms than medical advice. Therefore, education concerning sexual and reproductive health in relation to HIV/AIDS and childbearing is recommended. In particular, we recommend maternal and child healthcare nurses need to be sensitive to women’s perceptions and the cultural context of maternity when providing information about sexual and reproductive health.