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Chapter: Maternal and Child Health Nursing : Abnormal Conditions in Pregnancy and Labour

Harmful and Traditional Practices against Women and Children

Harmful practices are practices that are injurious to specific population or groups within the community.

Harmful and Traditional Practices against Women and Children




Harmful practices are practices that are injurious to specific population or groups within the community. Harmful traditional practices have their root in the ancient traditional, cultural and religious practices, handed down through successive generations either verbally or otherwise. Most of them are detrimental to the health, psychological and social wellbeing of women and the girl child.


Tradition: Traditions are customs, beliefs and values of acommunity which govern and influence their behavior. Tradition constitutes learnt habits which are passed on from generation to generation; people adhere to these patterns of behavior, believing that these are the right things to do.


Classification of Traditional Practices



·              Continuous Breastfeeding for 2 years


·              40 days rest after delivery.


Harmful                            -


·              Female Genital cutting (FGC)


·              Child marriage


·              When women cannot make decision to seek medical care


·              Son preference


·              Force feeding


·              Food taboos for children and pregnant women.


·              Gender based violence




·              Wearing charms around the neck and waist to send evils spirit away.


·              Putting wool on baby’s head to stop hiccup.


Groups of Harmful Practices


·              Those related to nutrition e.g. nutritional taboos associated with pregnancy, puerperium, infancy and childhood.


·              Those related to reproductive health e.g. harmful delivery practices, child marriage and teenage pregnancy and female genital cutting.


·              Those related to fundamental human right e.g. denial of the girls access to education, male preference, widowhood rite and inheritance, violence against women and children etc.


Consequences of Harmful practices


FGC – has both long term and short effects. E.g. sh ort term include – pain, bleeding, shock etc. long term incl udes – infertility difficult labour haematocoporse et.c.


Child Marriage and teenage pregnancy make the girl vulnerable to eclampsia, obstructed labour, vesico-vaginal fistula (VVF) Rectovaginal fistula (RVF). Harmful delivery practices exposes the woman to hepatitis B, HIV/AIDS as a result of unsterile instrument, infections, exhaustion, recurrent Urinary tract infection (UTI), burns etc.


Nutritional taboos can result into under weight, anaemia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the mother.


The child can suffer low birth weight, growth retardation, learning difficulties etc. Domestic violence may result in bruises, fractures, burns loss of part of the body e.g. eye, mental illness etc.


Contributory factors – poverty, low level of educat ion, religious misconception, social injustice and inadequate policies.


Strategies to address harmful practices are Advocacy, Awareness and networking steps to eradicate item include;


·              Identification of target violence e.g. opinion leaders, policy maker, men and market woman.


·              Education of the community using culturally acceptable means/materials.


Domestic violence


This is defined as collective methods used to exert power and control by one individual over another in an adult domestic or intimate relationship. Women in heterosexual relationship experience more violence although the homosexual too suffer violence in their relationship as well. World wide at least one in every three women is a victim of violence or sexual coercion at some point in her life.


Types of domestic violence: It may be in any form:

·              Verbal attacks


·              Insults, intimidation, threats, emotional abuse, social isolation, economic deprivation, intellectual derision, ridicule, stalking and physical attacks and injuries.


·              Physical battering include slapping, kicking, shoving, punching, forms of torture, attack with objects or weapons and sexual assault. Women who are physically abused can also suffer psychological and emotional abuse.


Characteristic of Battered women


·              They hold traditional view of sex roles – to be sub missive, passive and dependent and seek approval from male partner.


·              Some have experienced violence in childhood, by their parents.


·              Full time house wives – no work outside home.


·              Isolated from family and friends and are totally dependent on their partners for financial and emotional needs.


·              The abuser shift the family problems on them many believe the batterer’s insults and accusation.


·              They have low self-esteem reinforces their belief that they deserve to be beaten.


·              Feel a pervasive sense of guilt, fear and depression.

·              Low problem-solving ability


·              May experience lack of support from family friends and their religious community.


Characteristics of Batterers

·              Comes from all background.


·              Often have feeling of insecurity, socio economic inferiority, powerlessness and helplessness that conflict their assumption of male supremacy.


·              Emotionally immature and aggressive men projecting their feeling of inadequacy through violence.


·              Many are under serving their partners.


·              They lack respect for women in general.


·              Come from home where their mothers are abused.


·              Having been abused themselves as children.


Reasons for wife battering e.g. in Nigeria include refusal to respect husband, abusing husband, insufficient food allowance, refusal to have sex, disrespect to in-laws, extra marital affairs, inability to cater for the home and participate in women activities. Patriarchy allows men to have control over their women and their property.


Sorts of injuries instill on the women include facial bruises, cuts in the mouth, loss of teeth and severance of the hand.


Nursing Management


·              Screening of women to identify those women who have been abused –this is done privately.

·              Never be judgmental

·              Create a warm caring climate conduct in sharing

·              Encourage her to ray her mind out about the injuries.

·              Help the woman realize her problem and realistic idea of eliminating these problems.


Specific care

·              Medial treatment for injuries

·              Temporary shelter to provide safety for her and her children.

·              Counseling to raise her self esteem.

·              Legal assistance for restraining order, protection or prosecution.

·              Financial assistance for food, shelter, and clothing.

·              Job training and employment counseling for empowerment

·              An on going support group counseling – social welfa re.

·              Try to reduce their anxiety.

·              Counsels to assist her regain her feeling of control over life.


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Maternal and Child Health Nursing : Abnormal Conditions in Pregnancy and Labour : Harmful and Traditional Practices against Women and Children |

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