Novel Doctoral Study Informs Policy to Reduce Unplanned Pregnancies

An elated Dr Winifred Ukoha (right) with her mentor, Professor Ntombifikile Mtshali at Graduation.

Novel Doctoral Study Informs Policy to Reduce Unplanned Pregnancies

Dr Winifred Chinyere Ukoha, a clinical skills facilitator and academic mentor in the Discipline of Nursing, graduated with a doctoral degree in Nursing.

Her innovative study, a first in the country, focused on preconception care provision in KwaZulu-Natal which is significant given the fact 84% of pregnancies in the province are unplanned.

Ukoha said, The findings of my study are significant. There is a need for increased awareness and understanding amongst healthcare providers regarding preconception care. This could help reduce unplanned pregnancies and associated outcomes, with the potential to improve overall social health status in future generations. The study, which produced five publications in peer-reviewed journals, also formulated a policy brief to assist in the integration of preconception care in the healthcare system.

Ukoha said that she faced a number of challenges in her PhD journey, including her own unplanned pregnancy with her youngest son, Benjamin. The COVID-19 pandemic also placed many obstacles in her path, especially when it came to data collection, which delayed completion of her degree. She said, I am so grateful for the support of my supervisor, Professor Ntombifikile Gloria Mtshali and my loving husband. With their unending support, I was able to overcome all obstacles. I am indebted to God Almighty for His loving kindness and grace that enabled me to start and complete this journey.

My experience at UKZN was exceptional, with numerous support structures available. Staff members were accommodating and kind towards me. Finally, the online learning platforms made it easy for me to complete my studies while caring for my young children. This was crucial in helping me balance both.

Words:MaryAnn Francis

Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal