Community Traditional Birth Attendants and Cultural Birthing Practices in Nigeria

Social Work Implications
Living reference work entry
Part of the Social Work book series (SOWO)


Africa and South Asia account for over half of the births in the world, with 65% of these births occurring in non-orthodox traditional settings.

Studies show that affordability and accessibility are reasons why women choose the utilization of the services of traditional birth attendants (TBA) in Nigerian rural areas. However, urban women with better accessibility to hospitals and greater financial capacities also prefer TBA above hospital deliveries and midwives. It has been observed that the use of TBA is rooted in indigenous practices and beliefs that may not have western scientific explanations yet have served Nigerian communities for many generations. There are also factors of trust between the women and the TBA because they are members of the community, and they speak the same language and can relate to idiosyncrasies which otherwise might be ridiculed by medical practitioners. Social and emotional closeness that is not replicated in hospital settings are reported with TBA services.

Cultural birthing practices include the teaching of behavioral avoidance among pregnant women, disposal of the placenta, and provision of healing medicine, among others. Prayers are also made to address inherent fears of metaphysical influences that are believed to impact the health and safety of mother and child.

This chapter explores the roles of TBA, cultural practices, and indigenous beliefs, as well as the perceived tensions between the traditional birthing systems and mainstream healthcare systems. Utilizing primary and secondary sources, the authors identified challenges faced by TBA such as lack of adequate training, affirmation from medical systems, and lack of equipment. The authors also propose ways social workers may bridge the divide between TBA and orthodox medicine such as affirming TBA practices as community development, building trust, promoting interdisciplinary dialogues, and advocacy for TBA training, and promoting a mutually integrated referral system.


Traditional birth Attendants Nigeria Community Social work 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Babcock UniversityIlishan-RemoNigeria
  2. 2.Spelman CollegeAtlantaUSA

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