Doctoral defence of Austrida Gondwe on August 23rd, 2019

The doctoral dissertation of MSc in International Community Health is in the field of Maternal and child health titled “Born Soon in Malawi: Maternal nutrition as a predictor of preterm delivery and community and professional views on the care of the preterm infant” will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Health and Technology at Tampere University at 12:00 noon on 23-08-2019 in Arvo Buliding, Room 109A. The opponent will be Professor Thorkild Tylleskär of Bergen University, Norway. The Custos will be Docent Ulla Ashorn, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology.

The dissertation is available online

Low weight gain during pregnancy results into poor birth outcomes such as preterm birth. 

Preterm birth is one of the leading contributors to death among children under five years worldwide. Malawi is a poor country in sub-Saharan African where preterm birth is especially common and these babies are facing high risk of deaths and health problems. We studied families and health professional views on preterm babies and their care as well as pregnancy outcomes in poor rural population in Malawi. .


In rural areas of sub- Saharan Africa, the well-being of an infant is influenced by several factors including poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy. In rural areas of Malawi, participants perceived that diseases such as asthma, hypertension and malaria could cause preterm birth. The belief that some cultural behaviours such as having multiple relationships could cause preterm birth is a revelation to the lack of knowledge on the underlying risk factors for preterm birth and need immediate intervention. Alternatively, the belief that poor diet can cause preterm birth is important because it can encourage mitigating nutrition problems during pregnancy. Pregnant women are supposed to eat well and have a balanced diet such as eggs, porridge made from maize (mgaiwa) flour, vegetables and sometimes meat. However, you find that a pregnant woman is just eating okra without any other additional foods because there is no money to buy food in the family. Thus, the pregnant woman cannot survive well during pregnancy and obviously she would give birth to a preterm (born before time) or Low Birth Weight (onyentchera) and sometimes both the infant and the mother may die during birth – says one of the participants in the rural areas in Malawi.   In a country, with increasing numbers of preterm births, proper knowledge of how to care for preterm infants in important to address the public health challenge of increased deaths in the preterm infants.  The main reported care of preterm infants in Malawi is provision of warmth despite that some local methods of providing warmth would be harmful to the new born if not well handled. The worrying part is that some of the front line health providers lack knowledge about how to care for preterm infants in the health facilities and this has to be addressed.

Austrida Gondwe is a Malawian and has a Masters in International Community Health obtained from Oslo University. She is currently working with Dignitas International Malawi as a Knowledge Translation Specialist and a consultant on family planning services in Malawi with Family Health International (FHI360).

Key words: Preterm birth; ennenaikainen syntymä; nutrition; ravitsemus; Malawi; born too soon; koivu liian pian