As an intern at the old Natalspruit Hospital in Katlehong, Dr Gugulethu Mkize noticed high levels of traditional medicine.
“On my first day in the labour ward, a patient came into the ward in the latent phase (of delivery) but within two hours she had delivered,” she told OurHealth. “I was surprised by the fast progression (of her labour).”
When Mkize asked colleagues about the astonishingly fast delivery, they attributed it to the use of the traditional medicine Isihlambezo among pregnant women, she told OurHealth.
When Mkize eventually moved to Bertha Gxowa Hospital, she decided to attempt gauge levels of traditional medicine use among expecting mothers by interviewing 357 women after they delivered. She recently presented the results of her research at the Ekurhuleni Health District Conference 2014 in Kempton Park.
Through her interviews, Mkize found that isihlambezo was most commonly used by Zulu women while the use of umcamo wemfene, also known as baboon urine, was more common among Xhosa women, she said.
Thembi Hlatshwayo is five months pregnant and a mother to a 2-year-old boy. After having used isihlambezo during her first pregnancy, Hlatshwayo says she is planning to start taking the traditional medicine again as she heads into her third trimester of pregnancy.
“I delivered so easily,” Hlatshwayo told OurHealth.
Gogo Thembisile Mavimbela is a traditional healers and chairs the Ekurhuleni Health Practitioners Forum. Mavimbela said that Isihlambezo is not only thought to ease labour but also strengthen a child’s bones.
While Mkize said that some traditional medicines may not harm mums and babies in the right doesages, some can hurt mothers and babies or interact with other medicine. She added that her research among mums at Bertha Gxowa Hospital proves that health workers need to be talking to mums about their traditional medicine use.