The childbirth experience amongst women from diverse spiritual backgrounds :|ban exploratory study at public hospitals in the uMgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal
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Introduction Through centuries the birth of a baby has been considered as a deeply felt spiritual experience. Childbirth is not merely a physiological experience; it also embraces social, emotional, psychological, spiritual and religious aspects. In most Western societies the sacred moment of birth dissipates within the context of a pressured hospital environment. Whilst literature and empirical research has proliferated on midwifery very little has been done to explore how women experience childbirth personally and more importantly how spirituality interfaces within the context of the childbirth experience and midwifery care. There is a growing body of literature on spiritually sensitive care. However, there remained a need to inquire about mother’s personal experience and how spirituality interfaces with the childbirth experience in the hospital context. Problem statement Whilst empirical research in the field of midwifery, has grown, research pertaining to the spiritual aspects related to women’s diverse spiritual needs during childbirth is sparse (Crowther and Hall 2015). Furthermore little attention has been paid to issues relating to how women experienced childbirth in the public sector, and how religion and spirituality influence and impact on childbirth. It is against this background that the current study was conceived. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the experience of childbirth amongst women from diverse spiritual or religious backgrounds viz. Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion and Hinduism, at public hospitals in the uMgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal. Methodology A qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual study design was used. A total sample of twenty-two postnatal mothers from the following common spiritual backgrounds in South Africa viz. Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion and Hinduism were purposively chosen. Data was collected until saturation. Participants were selected from three public hospitals in the uMgungundlovu District of KwaZulu-Natal. Data was collected by means of semi-structured interviews conducted six weeks post-delivery at the six-week health check, but within three months of delivery. Interviews were transcribed manually; the data was analysed through thematic analysis. Findings The main themes drawn from the data reflected that childbirth was a deeply personal and meaningful experience. It was seen as a spiritual experience and spirituality was seen as a vital support system in enabling mothers to cope better with pain and other challenges. Emotional and comfort needs were also identified by mothers as being very important to cope with pain and an easier delivery. The presence of midwives and the need for partner and family support were also seen to be important. More importantly the study found that their spirituality and spiritually based activities and rituals were an important aspect of the overall birth experience. The study found a diverse range of spiritual practices and rituals that were salient across all the spiritual worldviews during childbirth and post-delivery. It also found that mothers often resorted to alternate and traditional therapies to help cope with labour and delivery all of which have salience to midwifery practice that is both respectful and sensitive to the diverse worldviews of mothers. Conclusion Collectively the data reflected that childbirth was a holistic experience that cannot be separated also from partner, family and medical support. Whilst traditionally effective midwifery practice may have been so to focus on primarily physical care, the study found that the physical component is interrelated with the psychological, social and cultural aspects as well. Hence effective and ethical midwifery practice is inseparable from these facets but most importantly inseparable from the spiritual worldviews that most mothers follow and ascribe to. Contemporary education needs to recognize the current move towards spiritual care and provide knowledge and skill to deal with patients from diverse spiritual backgrounds. Finally it needs to recognize as this study has found, that childbirth is a multifaceted experience which is spiritual in nature. Viewed in this way both midwives and the management of public hospitals should then make every effort to create spiritually sensitive care during the childbirth experience.