Home Institution

Washington University in Saint Louis

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


In the Zulu culture, several traditions and rituals are practiced during a woman’s pregnancy and perinatal period. However, as urbanization spreads and western influences strengthen, these rituals risk being lost. This project aims to capture existing knowledge of these traditions and to assess the intergenerational changes in practice and attitudes towards practicing the rituals.

Information on Zulu traditions practiced during a woman’s pregnancy and perinatal period was collected through two interviews and a focus group consisting of three elderly women in Masxha, a Black township in KwaZulu-Natal. Following the interviews and focus group, 32 Masxha residents were recruited to complete a survey aimed at understanding intergenerational changes in practice and perception of the importance of the traditions.

For the purpose of this project, participants 18 to 35 were classified as “younger” and those over 35 as “older.” Survey results suggest older Masxha residents believe in the importance of practicing the traditions more than younger residents. Statistical analysis revealed older people are significantly more likely to believe men should not be with a woman while she is giving birth and that a mother must refrain from cooking after she gives birth compared to younger people. Older mothers were also more likely to have practiced the traditions than younger mothers, suggesting a decrease in practice of Zulu traditions. Further study is needed to understand younger people's perceived importance of the traditions and why the practice of the traditions is becoming less common.


African Studies | Alternative and Complementary Medicine | Community Health | Family Medicine | Health Policy | Maternal and Child Health | Maternal, Child Health and Neonatal Nursing | Nursing Midwifery | Obstetrics and Gynecology | Pediatrics | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Women's Health


Article Location