Indigenous healing practices and self-medication amongst pregnant women in Cape Town, South Africa

Afr J Reprod Health. 2002 Aug;6(2):79-86.


This study was conducted in and around Cape Town, South Africa, at two primary obstetric facilities and in the antenatal clinics of two secondary hospitals. Findings show that majority of the Xhosa speaking women follow indigenous healing practices for both themselves and their babies because of the need to "strengthen" the womb against sorcery, to prevent childhood illnesses, and to treat symptoms they perceive that biomedical services would not be able to treat. Self-medication with non-prescribed drugs, herbs and Dutch remedies was common practice amongst the Afrikaans speaking women for both themselves and their babies. Herbs and Dutch remedies were mainly used to treat indigenous illness (baarwind) while non-prescribed over-the-counter drugs were used to treat minor ailments associated with pregnancy. There is, therefore, an urgent need to bridge the gap between orthodox and indigenous medical systems through reciprocal learning and by acknowledging each other's roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Services, Indigenous
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Medical Indigency / psychology*
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Self Medication / psychology*
  • South Africa


  • Nonprescription Drugs