Background: Early pregnancy and unplanned childbirth have far-reaching physical, psychological and social consequences to the adolescent girl and her offspring and is therefore a public health problem for concern. At Mbabane Government Hospital 25% of the deliveries are by women aged 10-19 years. Little has been documented about family and community support for adolescent mothers in Swaziland.
Aim: The aim of this study was to generate more systematic data on support to adolescent mothers and their newborns during the early postpartum period by families, communities and health professionals.
Methods: Thirty-one adolescent mothers were recruited from Mbabane Obstetric Unit after childbirth and were visited in their homes 7 days after delivery and interviewed about the family, community and health professional support experienced for themselves and their newborns. A semi-structured interview guide was used to obtain both quantitative and qualitative data.
Findings: Support from families, community and health professionals were generally poor, and pregnancies among adolescents were unplanned. There was poor or no communication, and information from parents and the community on sexuality and reproductive health had been grossly lacking. Peers were the primary source of information about sexuality and reproduction. Communities did not offer services aimed at providing adolescents with information and skills regarding safe sexual behaviour.
Conclusions: Adolescents need contraceptive counselling and services in order to prevent pregnancies at a young age. Communication among parents and their daughters needs to be encouraged in order to monitor postpartum care and also to ensure continuity of maternity care.