Socio-cultural factors surrounding mental distress during the perinatal period in Zambia: a qualitative investigation
1 Department of Nursing Sciences, University of Zambia, School of Medicine, Box 50110, Nationalist Road, Lusaka, Zambia
2 Faculty of Nursing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, NB 420, 1720 2nd Avenue South, Birmingham, USA
3 Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University, Calverley Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS 1 3HE, UK
International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2012, 6:12 doi:10.1186/1752-4458-6-12Published: 6 September 2012
The presence of mental distress during pregnancy and after childbirth imposes detrimental developmental and health consequences for families in all nations. In Zambia, the Ministry of Health (MoH) has proposed a more comprehensive approach towards mental health care, recognizing the importance of the mental health of women during the perinatal period.
The study explores factors contributing to mental distress during the perinatal period of motherhood in Zambia.
A qualitative study was conducted in Lusaka, Zambia with nineteen focus groups comprising 149 women and men from primary health facilities and schools respectively.
There are high levels of mental distress in four domains: worry about HIV status and testing; uncertainty about survival from childbirth; lack of social support; and vulnerability/oppression.
Identifying mental distress and prompt referral for interventions is critical to improving the mental health of the mother and prevent the effects of mental distress on the baby.
Strategies should be put in place to ensure pregnant women are screened for possible perinatal mental health problems during their visit to antenatal clinic and referral made to qualified mental health professionals. In addition further research is recommended in order to facilitate evidence based mental health policy formulation and implementation in Zambia.