Barriers to Optimal Iron Supplementation by Pregnant Women Attending the Mutare City Clinic, Manicaland, Zimbabwe
Keywords:iron supplements, barriers, pregnant women, compliance
The optimal use of iron supplements by pregnant women is important in ensuring healthy pregnancy outcomes. However, some barriers may prevent the optimal use of iron supplements by pregnant women in developing countries, subsequently resulting in iron deficiency anaemia, threatening the health of the pregnant woman and the fetus. This study aimed to identify possible barriers to optimal iron supplementation among pregnant women and possible strategies for alleviating these barriers. This cross-sectional study was conducted at the Mutare City Clinic in Manicaland, Zimbabwe. A total of 64 Black African pregnant women aged between 17 and 39 years participated in 8 focus group discussions. The pregnant women identified several barriers to the optimal use of iron supplements. The major barriers were poor compliance mainly due to erratic supplies of iron supplements at the healthcare centre, inadequate nutrition education on the benefits of iron supplements, side effects, and religious and cultural beliefs. Poverty and the influence of family members were other barriers. Most pregnant women were accustomed to receiving iron supplements free of charge from the healthcare centres and could not afford to buy them from private pharmacies. Despite erratic supplies at healthcare centres, continuous reinforcement of positive iron supplementation could motivate pregnant women to take iron supplements. Intensive nutrition education programmes may help to improve perceptions of women towards iron supplements. This could possibly help to overcome barriers to optimal iron supplementation, and thus reduce the prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia among pregnant women in Zimbabwe.
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