A qualitative study of pregnancy-related anxiety among women in Tanzania

BMJ Open. 2017 Aug 3;7(8):e016072. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016072.


Objectives: To explore and understand the experiences and priorities of pregnant women living with fears and worries related to fetal/infant and maternal health, the birthing process and ability to parent the infant (ie, pregnancy-related anxiety (PRA)) in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Design: Descriptive phenomenological approach.

Setting: Two clinics in the Ilemela and Nyamagana districts of Mwanza.

Participants: Pregnant and postpartum women who obtained high scores on a PRA scale during pregnancy in a larger quantitative study were contacted to participate in an interview (10 women, aged 18-34 years; 3 HIV positive).

Measures: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken, with guiding questions related to the women's experience during pregnancy. The Colaizzi method was used with transcripts that had been translated and back translated from Swahili to English and then hand-coded by the interviewer, with independent review by another researcher to verify the analysis.

Results: PRA, as experienced by women in Mwanza, was a state of worry and concern, often causing physical symptoms, and disrupting personal sense of peace. While some themes in the women's experiences reflected the domains examined in the PRA scale used to identify potential participants, others such as lack of knowledge, partner relationship, interactions with the healthcare system, spirituality and fear of HIV/AIDS were otherwise missing. Their prominence in the participants' stories broadens our understanding of PRA.

Conclusions: The realities and viewpoints of women in low-income and middle-income countries (LMIC) experiencing PRA are still relatively unknown. The findings from this study provided much-needed insight into the perspectives and priorities of women in Mwanza who have experienced PRA and further support the need to explore this phenomenon in other LMIC. The additional domains identified reinforce the need for a PRA tool that accurately and adequately capture the complexities of PRA for women in this region.

Keywords: anxiety; global health; pregnancy; pregnancy-related anxiety; women's health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications*
  • Anxiety*
  • Developing Countries
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*
  • Pregnant Women / psychology*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Partners
  • Spirituality
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tanzania
  • Young Adult