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Midwifery. 2013 Aug;29(8):863-70. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2012.09.002. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

More than re-establishing the partner relationship: Intimate aftercare for Somali parents in diaspora.

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Department of Women's and Children's Health, Uppsala University Hospital, Uppsala, Sweden.



to explore the sexual relationship and couples' perceptions about intimate partner support following childbirth.


a hermeneutic design using a naturalistic inquiry framework as a qualitative proxy for medical anthropology. Data were collected using a fictional and culturally-specific narrative during focus group discussions (FGDs) in early 2011. Analysis was conducted by 'functional narrative analysis' and interpreted for conceptual constructions. Recruitment was by snowball and purposive sampling.


a diasporic context among participants living in six urban centres across Sweden.


successful recruitment included 16 Somali-Swedish fathers and 27 mothers. Three FDGs were conducted with fathers (3-7 participants) and seven with mothers (3-6 participants).


within day 40 post partum, parents learn to rely on each other in the absence of traditional support networks. After the first 40 days, the re-introduction of sexual intimacy is likely to occur. Of the fathers experiencing postpartum sexual aversion, these seemed to experience 'existential angst' resulting from a combination of profound remorse over having put the partner into what they perceived as a life-threatening situation during childbirth and their perceived moral and ethical obligations to provide support in this setting. Mothers in general did not directly discuss their own sexuality. Women could imagine men's sexual aversion after witnessing childbirth. However, they seemed unaware of men's potential for angst. Mothers are situated between the loss of traditional postpartum support networks, comprised of close female kin, and their own newly-defined responsibilities in the host setting. Fathers embrace their new role. Both partners articulated the mother's new role as enhancing autonomy and independence in the host setting. However, women held mixed attitudes about fathers replacing traditional kin support.


to date, late postpartum aftercare for immigrant African parents is anecdotally linked to evidence-based recommendations, which have been identified for parents who are ethnically-congruent to a western study setting. Our findings suggest that aftercare meant for Somali parents living in these settings requires an understanding of how traditional intimate support and the postpartum sexual relationship are re-negotiated in the diasporic context. This includes recognition of the father as a willing and supportive partner.


Midwifery guidelines; Postpartum sexual aversion; Proxy for anthropology

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