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Help-seeking behaviours in childbearing women in Ghana, West Africa


Lynn Clark Callister, College of Nursing, Brigham Young University, 136 SWKT, Provo, UT 84602, USA; Tel: (801)-422-3227; Fax: (801)-422-0536; E-mail:


FARNES C., BECKSTRAND R.L. & CALLISTER L.C. (2011) Help-seeking behaviours in childbearing women in Ghana, West Africa. International Nursing Review58, 491–497

Aim:  The purpose of this ethnographic study was to examine the health-seeking behaviours of Ghanaian childbearing women.

Background:  The Ashanti consider pregnancy to be a vulnerable time when risk increases that women may be affected by witchcraft and develop sunsumyare. Preparation for positive birth outcomes include biomedical, ethnomedical and faith-based interventions.

Design:  A sample of 42 childbearing Ghanaian women participated in audiotaped interviews. Transcribed interviews were coded and categorized into themes.

Findings and discussion:  The overriding theme was health seeking to ensure positive pregnancy outcomes. Subthemes included accessing multiple sources of care simultaneously, feeling vulnerable to spiritual illness, seeking spiritual protection and disclosing multiple sources of care.

Conclusion:  Childbearing is an essential part of the gender identity of Ashanti women. Witchcraft mentality provides a way for a woman to manage her life challenges.

Implications for practice:  Cultural beliefs and practices have profound effects on health-seeking behaviours. It is becoming increasingly important that healthcare providers perform cultural and spiritual assessments and inquire about complementary sources of health care.