Male partner support among young unmarried pregnant women in Durban.
The improvement of maternal and child health (MCH) outcomes has been an important part of the millennium development goals (MDGs). Although the world is at end of the MDG era, MCH remains an important issue globally as the MDGs have not been achieved in most countries. Maternal physical and psychological wellbeing is crucial because poor health during pregnancy does not only affect mothers but their unborn infants as well hence the integration of maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). Young women in universities are likely to experience pregnancy due to the risky sexual behavior in tertiary institutions which is characterized by lack of condom and/or contraceptive use and coercion. Therefore, most of these pregnancies are unintended. Unintended pregnancy can be a traumatic experience for students and has been associated with negative maternal and child health outcomes. In addition, pregnant young women in an academic environment are susceptible to stressors such as meeting academic demands, lack of financial resources, unstable relationships with their partners and social stigma. This is a problem because stress in pregnancy has been associated with anxiety, depressive symptoms and is a risk factor for postpartum depression. Therefore, it has potential negative effects on MNCH outcomes. One way to cope with stress in pregnancy is receiving social support because of its role in mediating psychological wellbeing in stressful situations. The role of male partners in giving social support was the main area of interest in this study. Therefore, this study explores the support needs of pregnant students at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa. Participants were purposively selected among pregnant students at the university. The findings show that pregnant students experience challenges in their environment which is a source of stress in pregnancy. To cope with these challenges, they seek different types of support such as emotional, instrumental, informational and financial support. Male partners are considered to be an important source of support in mediating stress and fostering physical and psychological wellbeing. The types of support received from male partners are mainly emotional and instrumental support. There is need for greater social support at different levels ranging from interpersonal, community and policy and male partner support should be encouraged by the health system for better MNCH outcomes.
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