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Soc Sci Med. 1992 Nov; 35(9): 1171-8.

Church-based obstetric care in a Yoruba community, Nigeria.

Adetunji JA.

National Centre for Development Studies, Australian National University, Canberra.

The analysis of data from available delivery registers in a Yoruba community, Nigeria suggests that about a half of recorded births between 1983 and 1990 were delivered in 'faith clinics' and not in a maternity centre. This paper reports on the mode of operation of these faith clinics in the town. It was observed that the faith clinics were under the control of mission-trained midwives all of whom claimed divine call as the reason for taking up the job. The midwives also listed prayer, fasting and guidance from the Holy Spirit as their main tools of trade. They offered no medicine to their clients and would not recommend any other treatment for them. Pregnant women that come for prenatal care are required to attend weekly prayer meetings for expectant mothers, take weekly baths in a particular river and maintain inward and outward cleanliness in their behaviour. The reasons for the relative success of these midwives in the town are discussed using a combination of economic, symbolic interactionist and pragmatic approaches. Recommendations on how best to tap their resourcefulness for a more effective health services delivery in the area include making them educators on and communicators of modern preventive health.

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