Women's lived experiences of preterm birth and neonatal care for premature infants at a tertiary hospital in Ghana: A qualitative study.
Preterm birth is a leading cause of death in children under five and a major public concern in Ghana. Women's lived experiences of care following preterm birth in clinical setting represents a viable adjunctive measure to improve the quality of care for premature infants. This qualitative study explored the knowledge and experiences of women who have had preterm birth and the associated challenges in caring for premature infants at a tertiary hospital. A qualitative design using in-depth interviews (IDIs) was conducted among women who experienced preterm birth with surviving infants at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana. A thematic content analysis using the inductive analytic framework was undertaken using Nvivo. Thirty women participated in the study. We observed substantial variation in women's knowledge on preterm birth: some women demonstrated significant understanding of preterm delivery including its causes such as hypertension in pregnancy, and potential complications including neonatal death whilst others had limited knowledge on the condition. Women reported significant social and financial challenges associated with preterm birth that negatively impacted the quality of postnatal care they received. Admission of preterm infants at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) generated enormous psychological and emotional stress on the preterm mothers due to uncertainty associated with the prognosis of their babies, health system challenges and increased cost. Context-specific recommendations to improve the quality of care for prematurely born infants were provided by the affected mothers and include urgent need to expand the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) coverage and more antenatal health education on preterm birth. Mothers of premature infants experienced varied unanticipated challenges during the care for their babies within the hospital setting. While knowledge of preterm birth seems adequate among women, there was a significant gap in the women's expectations of the challenges associated with the care of premature infants of which the majority experience psychosocial, economic and emotional impact.