Rural Indonesia women's traditional beliefs about antenatal care

BMC Res Notes. 2012 Oct 29;5:589. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-5-589.


Background: The Indonesia Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of 420/100.00 live births remains among the highest in East Asia while coverage of births assisted by skilled providers is still low. Traditional beliefs have been a key factor associated with the choice between midwives or traditional birth attendants (TBA) and the low number of antenatal care visits in rural West Sumatra.

Methods: We conducted three focus groups with 16 women from rural West Java to describe their perception regarding issues related to traditional beliefs. Focus group discussions provided data for the content analysis.

Results: The majority of the 16 women interviewed was from Village Dago, West Java and had only an elementary school education. Their ages ranged from 19 to 40 years. Most were multiparous housewives with an income of IDR 918.750 per month, which was lower than the monthly income in West Java (IDR. 1.172.060). Emerging from the focus group discussion were four main themes regarding their pregnancy and traditional beliefs: 1) pregnancy was a normal cycle in women's life (pregnancy is a natural phenomena, not a sickness; no recognition of danger signs during pregnancy and death of baby or mother during pregnancy was brought about by God's will); 2) women followed the traditional beliefs (positive motivation to follow the traditional beliefs and fear of not following the traditional beliefs); 3) relying on TBA called paraji rather than midwife (parajis are kind, tolerant and patient and have more experience than midwives; more accessibility than midwives and encouragement of natural birth) and 4) midwives are more secure than paraji; (they use a medical standard of care).

Conclusions: Women's beliefs grounded in religion and tradition permeated the village culture making it difficult to counter their long held health practices with practices based on recent advances in health care. Use of TBA in this village was still dominant and women believed that following traditional beliefs led to a healthy pregnancy therefore, they also followed all relatives' suggestions. Understanding the complexities of local culture is the first step to improving women's awareness of how to preserve their pregnancy and prevent complications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Indonesia / epidemiology
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Rural Population*
  • Young Adult