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Swaziland rural maternal care: Ethnography of the interface of custom and biomedicine


  • Declaration of the authors' industrial links and affiliations: The principal author, SBP Thwala is a young researcher and a state registered nurse-midwife in the kingdom of Swaziland. She is presently an educator in the Midwifery Department of the University of Swaziland. Dr LK Jones is a practising midwife and educator. She is currently the midwifery program director at RMIT University. Professor E Holroyd is a registered nurse and an experienced researcher who authors numerous publications and books. She is currently the head of programme in the school of nursing and at RMIT University.

Siphiwe B.P. Thwala, University of Swaziland, P.O. Box 369, Mbabane, Swaziland. Email:


Thwala SBP, Jones LK, Holroyd E. International Journal of Nursing Practice 2011; 17: 93–101

Swaziland rural maternal care: Ethnography of the interface of custom and biomedicine

A retrospective ethnographic enquiry was used to examine the values and beliefs that underpin Swazi women's birth practices during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. An unstructured interview guide was used to conduct 15 one-to-one audio-taped interviews in the field. Results revealed that although Swazi women embraced modern biomedical practices, they also largely adhered to customary practices, including use of traditional model of causation of illness, and the use of traditional medicines during childbirth. Recommendations include parallel antenatal education, which gives credence to the customs within the context of scientific modernity. In addition, changes are needed to public health policy that allows parallel systems of care to be delivered within the context of community midwifery practice.