Postpartum Sexual Abstinence and its Implications for Under-Five Health Outcome among Childbearing Women in South-east Nigeria

Chukwuechefulam K. Imo, Ethelbert Okoronkwo, Vitalis Ukoji, Chidi Mbah


Abstinence from sexual intercourse after childbirth is a common practice deeply rooted in the cultures of different communities, including Nigeria with varying duration. Despite the high level of postpartum abstinence in the South-east compared to other neighbouring regions of Nigeria, under-five mortality is relatively higher in the South-east. This paper examined postpartum sexual abstinence as a predictive factor for under-five health outcome in Abia State with data from a sample of 609 childbearing women within 15-49 years. The mean duration of postpartum abstinence was 3.1±1.5 months; shorter in rural than urban areas with 2.7±1.4 and 3.5±1.3 months, respectively. The months of abstinence from sexual activity after childbirth is significantly related to experiences of under-five mortality and childhood diseases (p<0.05). The qualitative data showed that period of abstinence from sexual activity after childbirth is rooted in culture and was alluded to have great influence on under-five health outcomes. It is concluded that most women resumed sexual activity early after childbirth mostly to secure their marriages which affect their under-five children‘s health. Proper guidelines on resumption of sexual activity after childbirth to avoid its negative effects on under-five health outcome should be instituted to facilitate the achievement of sustainable development. (Afr J Reprod Health 2018; 22[4]: 102-112).

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