Background: Preterm delivery is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of gestation. This global phenomenon is a critical issue of concern especially in developing countries that are resource-constrained when it comes to the management of preterm babies. Complications associated with prematurity contribute significantly to under-five mortality and are linked with feelings of despair, grief, and anxiety among mothers.
Methods: This was a qualitative descriptive study in an urban setting in the Greater Accra region of Ghana. Eleven mothers whose babies had been discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit in a major hospital and resided in Accra were interviewed in their homes using a semi-structured interview guide. Data were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed inductively by content analysis.
Results: All the mothers had formal education and the mean maternal age was 27.9 years. The majority of the mothers were multiparous. The gestational age at birth ranged from 32 to 34 weeks and the average birth weight of their babies was 1.61 kg. Four major themes emerged which included: Around the clock care; mothers’ self-perceptions and attitudes of significant others; mothers’ health and wellbeing; and support. Most of the mothers experienced physical exhaustion from the extra demands involved with care, had negative emotions, and unmet social needs.
Conclusions: The findings indicate that home management of preterm babies poses multiple stressors and is associated with poor psychological and physical wellbeing among mothers. Hence, the need for extensive education and identification of other social support systems to augment facility-based care for mothers and their preterm babies.