Popular health beliefs: Old wives tales about pregnancy and its outcome in Mosul city.


Background: Searching of popular health beliefs carries many benefits to the whole health process and any physician wants to function effectively in his community must be aware, socially, about these important popular beliefs about health and illness that may manipulate any treatment or preventive health plan. This work was conducted to evaluate the most important popular health beliefs related to pregnancy and its outcome.
Methods: A cross sectional design was used in this work. From the sociological point of view, it is a qualitative research, using a consecutive sample of women attendants at a primary health care centers for the period from. 1st. October 2006 to 1st. February 2007.
Assessment of the popular health beliefs about pregnancy regarding nutrition, hygiene, physical activity, dressing, utilization of medical services during pregnancy, deliveries, breast feeding, and sexual activities throughout the pregnancy was carried out by the use of especially designed questionnaire. All the information were gathered from women more than 40 years old, who have children and living in Mosul city since 30 years.
Results: Most of the participants in this study agreed about the importance of organ and red meats, milk, vegetables and fruits during pregnancy (99%, 97%, 95%, and 94% respectively). A lower proportion agreed about the usefulness of vitamins (63%), iron tablets (61%) and white meats (61%). Sufficient numbers (71%) regarded bathing as a healthy practice during pregnancy as well as tooth brushing (68%) and hand washing (92%). Only 36% went with walking for the pregnant women, 96% were against aerobics and also against running. More than two thirds (77%) supported vaccination, all refused exposure to X-ray and 90% also refused non-prescribed medication. The majority (91%) agreed about the importance of hospital deliveries and three quarters (75%) disagreed about untrained dia as a birth attendant. Fortunately, 83% were agreed about giving the colostrums to the new born directly after delivery. A dangerous proportion (18%) of mothers was assured about the benefits of application ash of dung or dung on the umbilical stump. Breast feeding got support from 84% while, 60% agreed about 3 weeks and more as a rest period after delivery.
Conclusion: Many popular health beliefs regarding pregnancy in Mosul city go in agreement with the scientific health facts and theories that should be reinforced and supported. Moreover, the very hazardous popular health belief that ash of dung or dung may be applied to the umbilical stumps of the newly born babies, still needs an intensive intervention health educational program.