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1.  Couples’ reports of household decision-making and the utilization of maternal health services in Bangladesh 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2012;75(12):2403-2411.
This study examines the association between maternal health service utilization and household decision-making in Bangladesh. Most studies of the predictors of reproductive health service use focus on women’s reports; however, men are often involved in these decisions as well. Recently, studies have started to explore the association between health outcomes and reports of household decision-making from both husbands and wives as matched pairs. Many studies of household decision-making emphasize the importance of the wife alone making decisions; however, some have argued that joint decision-making between husbands and wives may yield better reproductive health outcomes than women making decisions without input or agreement from their partners. Husbands’ involvement in decision-making is particularly important in Bangladesh because men often dominate household decisions related to large, health-related purchases. We use matched husband and wife reports about who makes common household decisions to predict use of antenatal and skilled delivery care, using data from the 2007 Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey. Results from regression analyses suggest that it is important to consider whether husbands and wives give concordant responses about who makes household decisions since discordant reports about who makes these decisions are negatively associated with reproductive health care use. In addition, compared to joint decision-making, husband-only decision-making is negatively associated with antenatal care use and skilled delivery care. Finally, associations between household decision-making arrangements and health service utilization vary depending on whose report is used and the type of health service utilized.
PMCID: PMC3523098  PMID: 23068556
Bangladesh; decision-making; husbands/wives; health service utilization; maternal health
2.  ‘Born before arrival’: user and provider perspectives on health facility childbirths in Kapiri Mposhi district, Zambia 
Maternal mortality remains high in sub-Saharan Africa. Health facility intra-partum strategies with skilled birth attendance have been shown to be most effective to address maternal mortality. In Zambia, the health policy for pregnant women is to have facility childbirth, but less than half of the women utilize the facilities for delivery. ‘Born before arrival’ (BBA) describes childbirth that occurs outside health facility. With the aim to increase our understanding of trust in facility birth care we explored how users and providers perceived the low utilization of health facilities during childbirth.
A qualitative study was conducted in Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia. Focus group discussions with antenatal clinic and outpatient department attendees were conducted in 2008 as part of the Response to Accountable priority setting and Trust in health systems project, (REACT). In-depth interviews conducted with women who delivered at home, their husbands, community leaders, traditional birth attendants, and midwives were added in 2011. Information was collected on perceptions and experiences of home and health facility childbirth, and reasons for not utilizing a facility at delivery. Data were analysed by inductive content analysis.
Perspectives of users and providers were grouped under themes that included experiences related to promotion of facility childbirth, responsiveness of health care providers, and giving birth at home. Trust and quality of care were important when individuals seek facility childbirth. Safety, privacy and confidentiality encouraged facility childbirth. Poor attitudes of health providers, long distances and lack of transport to facilities, costs to buy delivery kits, and cultural ideals that local herbs speed up labour and women should exhibit endurance at childbirth discouraged facility childbirth.
Trust and perceived quality of care were important and influenced health care seeking at childbirth. Interventions that include both the demand and supply sides of services with prioritizing needs of the community could substantially improve trust and utilization of facilities at childbirth, and accelerate efforts to achieve MDG5.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-323) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4171557  PMID: 25223631
Home deliveries; Health facility childbirth; Born before arrival; Responsiveness; Zambia
3.  The role of husbands in maternal health and safe childbirth in rural Nepal: a qualitative study 
The role of husbands in maternal health is often overlooked by health programmes in developing countries and is an under-researched area of study globally. This study examines the role of husbands in maternity care and safe childbirth, their perceptions of the needs of women and children, the factors which influence or discourage their participation, and how women feel about male involvement around childbirth. It also identifies considerations that should be taken into account in the development of health education for husbands.
This qualitative study was conducted in four rural hill villages in the Gorkha district of Nepal. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with husbands (n = 17), wives (n = 15), mothers-in-law (n = 3), and health workers (n = 7) in Nepali through a translator. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using axial coding.
We found that, in rural Nepal, male involvement in maternal health and safe childbirth is complex and related to gradual and evolving changes in attitudes taking place. Traditional beliefs are upheld which influence male involvement, including the central role of women in the domain of pregnancy and childbirth that cannot be ignored. That said, husbands do have a role to play in maternity care. For example, they may be the only person available when a woman goes into labour. Considerable interest for the involvement of husbands was also expressed by both expectant mothers and fathers. However, it is important to recognise that the husbands’ role is shaped by many factors, including their availability, cultural beliefs, and traditions.
This study shows that, although complex, expectant fathers do have an important role in maternal health and safe childbirth. Male involvement needs to be recognised and addressed in health education due to the potential benefits it may bring to both maternal and child health outcomes. This has important implications for health policy and practice, as there is a need for health systems and maternal health interventions to adapt in order to ensure the appropriate and effective inclusion of expectant fathers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12884-015-0599-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4523911  PMID: 26239123
4.  Transforming maternal and newborn health social norms and practices to increase utilization of health services in rural Bangladesh: a qualitative review 
Since 2008, Participatory Action for Rural Development Innovation (PARI) Development Trust, with the support of Enfants du Monde, has been implementing a maternal and newborn health (MNH) program based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) framework for Working with Individuals, Families and Communities (IFC) to improve MNH in Netrokona district, Bangladesh. This program aims to empower women and families and increase utilization of quality health services, thereby helping women realize their rights related to maternal health. Birth preparedness and complication readiness and working with traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to exercise a new role in MNH and have formed key interventions of this program. The purpose of this study was to explore how the program has contributed to changing social norms and practices surrounding MNH at midpoint.
This study relied primarily on qualitative data collection. Two focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with women who were pregnant or had recently given birth and one FGD with each of the following groups: husbands, family members, TBAs, and health workers. In-depth interviews were conducted with women who were pregnant or had recently given birth, family members of these women, health care providers, TBAs and community health workers in selected intervention areas.
Since implementation of interventions informants report an increase in planning for birth and complications and a shift in preference toward skilled care at birth. However, women still prefer to receive services at home. TBAs report encouraging women to access skilled care for both routine and emergency services. While community members’ understanding of rights related to maternal health remains limited, they report increased women’s participation in household decision- making processes, an important indicator of the realization of rights.
Results suggest that community-level interventions aiming to affect change in social norms and practices surrounding MNH can influence knowledge and practices even after a short period of time. Further evaluations will be required to quantify the degree to which these changes are having an impact on health services utilization.
PMCID: PMC4391089  PMID: 25886165
Maternal health; Newborn health; Birth preparation; Community based interventions; Traditional birth attendants; Bangladesh
5.  The Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth in Health Facilities Globally: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(6):e1001847.
Despite growing recognition of neglectful, abusive, and disrespectful treatment of women during childbirth in health facilities, there is no consensus at a global level on how these occurrences are defined and measured. This mixed-methods systematic review aims to synthesize qualitative and quantitative evidence on the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities to inform the development of an evidence-based typology of the phenomenon.
Methods and Findings
We searched PubMed, CINAHL, and Embase databases and grey literature using a predetermined search strategy to identify qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods studies on the mistreatment of women during childbirth across all geographical and income-level settings. We used a thematic synthesis approach to synthesize the qualitative evidence and assessed the confidence in the qualitative review findings using the CERQual approach. In total, 65 studies were included from 34 countries. Qualitative findings were organized under seven domains: (1) physical abuse, (2) sexual abuse, (3) verbal abuse, (4) stigma and discrimination, (5) failure to meet professional standards of care, (6) poor rapport between women and providers, and (7) health system conditions and constraints. Due to high heterogeneity of the quantitative data, we were unable to conduct a meta-analysis; instead, we present descriptions of study characteristics, outcome measures, and results. Additional themes identified in the quantitative studies are integrated into the typology.
This systematic review presents a comprehensive, evidence-based typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities, and demonstrates that mistreatment can occur at the level of interaction between the woman and provider, as well as through systemic failures at the health facility and health system levels. We propose this typology be adopted to describe the phenomenon and be used to develop measurement tools and inform future research, programs, and interventions.
Meghan Bohren and colleagues review the extent and types of mistreatment against women during childbirth.
Editors' Summary
In 2000, as Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, world leaders set a target of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio—the number of deaths among women caused by pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications (maternal deaths) per 100,000 live births—to a quarter of its 1990 level by 2015. MDG 5, along with seven other MDGs, was designed to alleviate extreme poverty by 2015. Although progress towards MDG 5 (and towards the other MDGs) has been good, in 2013, the global maternal mortality ratio was still 210, well above the target of 95. In that year alone, nearly 300,000 women, 99% them living in low- and middle-income countries, died from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Most of these maternal deaths were caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding) after childbirth, post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, or blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. These conditions are largely preventable if women have access to good-quality reproductive health services and if trained birth attendants are present during childbirth.
Why Was This Study Done?
The rates of skilled birth attendance and of facility-based childbirth have risen in resource-limited countries over the past two decades, but almost a third of women in these countries still deliver without a skilled birth attendant. Among the numerous obstacles likely to prevent further increases in the proportion of women delivering in a health facility is women’s fear of mistreatment during delivery. Women need to be sure that they will receive dignified and respectful care during childbirth. Unfortunately, recent studies have indicated that women are often exposed to neglectful, abusive, and disrespectful care (care that local consensus regards as humiliating or undignified) during childbirth in health facilities. There is currently no consensus about how to define and measure the mistreatment of women during childbirth, so here, the researchers develop an evidence-based typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities worldwide by combining information identified in a mixed-methods systematic review. A typology is a systematic classification of objects or behaviors that have characteristics in common. A mixed-methods systematic review identifies all the qualitative and quantitative research on a given topic using predefined criteria. Qualitative research investigates how people feel about a medical intervention; quantitative research provides numerical data about interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 65 (mainly qualitative) studies undertaken in 34 countries that investigated the mistreatment of women during childbirth across all geographical and income-level settings. They analyzed the evidence presented in these studies using thematic analysis, an approach that identifies and organizes patterns (themes) within qualitative data. Based on this analysis, the researchers developed a typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth consisting of seven domains (categories). These domains were physical abuse (for example, slapping or pinching during delivery); sexual abuse; verbal abuse such as harsh or rude language; stigma and discrimination based on age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or medical conditions; failure to meet professional standards of care (for example, neglect during delivery); poor rapport between women and providers, including ineffective communication, lack of supportive care, and loss of autonomy; and health system conditions and constraints such as the lack of the resources needed to provide women with privacy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings illustrate how women’s experiences of childbirth worldwide are marred by mistreatment. Moreover, they indicate that, although the mistreatment of women during delivery in health facilities often occurs at the level of the interaction between women and healthcare providers, systemic failures at the levels of the health facility and the health system also contribute to its occurrence. Further studies are needed to provide quantitative evidence of the burden of mistreatment of women during delivery and to identify the characteristics of health facilities that facilitate or mitigate the mistreatment of women. For now, though, the researchers call for the adoption of their evidence-based typology as a way to describe the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities. Their typology, they suggest, could also be used to develop measurement tools and to design interventions that ensure that health care providers promote positive birth experiences by providing respectful, dignified, and supportive care to women during childbirth. Hopefully, such interventions will lead to more women deciding to deliver their babies in health facilities, will promote positive birth experiences, and, ultimately, will lead to further reductions in maternal deaths.
Additional Information
This list of resources contains links that can be accessed when viewing the PDF on a device or via the online version of the article at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Rachel Jewkes and Loveday Penn-Kekana
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a statement on promoting the rights of women and access to safe, timely, respectful care during childbirth
The White Ribbon Alliance promotes the universal rights of childbearing women
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal health and on the recent decline in maternal mortality
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5 (in several languages) and information about the prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth
Further information about the Millennium Development Goals and The Millennium Development Goals Report 2014, which details progress on reaching these goals, are available (in several languages)
Immpact is a research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper that was published by the humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières in 2012
Veil of Tears contains personal stories from Afghanistan about maternal death
More information is available on the CERQual approach for assessing confidence in the evidence from reviews of qualitative research
The Cochrane Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group has published supplemental handbook guidance on qualitative evidence syntheses
Wikipedia has pages on thematic analysis and on systematic review (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC4488322  PMID: 26126110
6.  High ANC coverage and low skilled attendance in a rural Tanzanian district: a case for implementing a birth plan intervention 
In Tanzania, more than 90% of all pregnant women attend antenatal care at least once and approximately 62% four times or more, yet less than five in ten receive skilled delivery care at available health units. We conducted a qualitative study in Ngorongoro district, Northern Tanzania, in order to gain an understanding of the health systems and socio-cultural factors underlying this divergent pattern of high use of antenatal services and low use of skilled delivery care. Specifically, the study examined beliefs and behaviors related to antenatal, labor, delivery and postnatal care among the Maasai and Watemi ethnic groups. The perspectives of health care providers and traditional birth attendants on childbirth and the factors determining where women deliver were also investigated.
Twelve key informant interviews and fifteen focus group discussions were held with Maasai and Watemi women, traditional birth attendants, health care providers, and community members. Principles of the grounded theory approach were used to elicit and assess the various perspectives of each group of participants interviewed.
The Maasai and Watemi women's preferences for a home birth and lack of planning for delivery are reinforced by the failure of health care providers to consistently communicate the importance of skilled delivery and immediate post-partum care for all women during routine antenatal visits. Husbands typically serve as gatekeepers of women's reproductive health in the two groups - including decisions about where they will deliver- yet they are rarely encouraged to attend antenatal sessions. While husbands are encouraged to participate in programs to prevent maternal-to-child transmission of HIV, messages about the importance of skilled delivery care for all women are not given emphasis.
Increasing coverage of skilled delivery care and achieving the full implementation of Tanzania's Focused Antenatal Care Package in Ngorongoro depends upon improved training and monitoring of health care providers, and greater family participation in antenatal care visits.
PMCID: PMC2850322  PMID: 20302625
7.  The involvement of men in maternal health care: cross-sectional, pilot case studies from Maligita and Kibibi, Uganda 
Reproductive Health  2014;11:68.
The International Conference on Population Development held in Cairo in 1994 identified the importance of male involvement in reproductive health programs. Since then, there has been an increase in reproductive health initiatives that target both men and women in an attempt to fulfill the 5th Millenium Development Goal. Yet, while the benefits of male involvement have been acknowledged, there continues to be a challenge in creating a space for and engaging men in maternal health. This is problematic due to the role of men as the head of the household in many countries, especially developing countries, which suffer from higher rates of maternal mortality. Furthermore, men are important as partners, fathers and health care professionals and as such it is important to involve and engage with men in maternal health education, and antenatal care.
The purpose of this study undertaken in two rural villages in southeastern Uganda, was twofold: firstly to understand men’s current participation in antenatal, pregnancy care and childbirth and secondly to gain insight into both men and women’s attitudes toward increased male involvement. Focus group discussions and semi-structured questionnaires were used to collect information from 35 men and women. The women were either pregnant or had been involved in a birth experience in the past 3 years and the men had wives who were pregnant or had given birth recently.
Men interviewed in the two villages believed that issues related to pregnancy and childbirth were the domain of women. Involvement tended to be confined (to removed) strictly to traditional gender roles, with men’s main responsibility being provision of funds. The women, on the other hand, were interested in receiving more support from their husband through planning, attendance to antenatal care and physical presence in the vicinity of where the birth was taking place.
This cross-sectional study has highlighted the space for increased male involvement and participation in maternal health, proposed recommendations and the need for community health education directed at men that engages them in this important area.
PMCID: PMC4167520  PMID: 25192714
Antenatal care; Male involvement; Maternal health outcomes; Uganda
8.  Reasons for home delivery and use of traditional birth attendants in rural Zambia: a qualitative study 
Despite the policy change stopping traditional birth attendants (TBAs) from conducting deliveries at home and encouraging all women to give birth at the clinic under skilled care, many women still give birth at home and TBAs are essential providers of obstetric care in rural Zambia. The main reasons for pregnant women’s preference for TBAs are not well understood. This qualitative study aimed to identify reasons motivating women to giving birth at home and seek the help of TBAs. This knowledge is important for the design of public health interventions focusing on promoting facility-based skilled birth attendance in Zambia.
We conducted ten focus group discussions (n = 100) with women of reproductive age (15–45 years) in five health centre catchment areas with the lowest institutional delivery rates in the district. In addition, a total of 30 in-depth interviews were conducted comprising 5 TBAs, 4 headmen, 4 husbands, 4 mothers, 4 neighbourhood health committee (NHC) members, 4 community health workers (CHWs) and 5 nurses. Perspectives on TBAs, the decision-making process regarding home delivery and use of TBAs, and reasons for preference of TBAs and their services were explored.
Our findings show that women’s lack of decision- making autonomy regarding child birth, dependence on the husband and other family members for the final decision, and various physical and socioeconomic barriers including long distances, lack of money for transport and the requirement to bring baby clothes and food while staying at the clinic, prevented them from delivering at a clinic. In addition, socio-cultural norms regarding childbirth, negative attitude towards the quality of services provided at the clinic, made most women deliver at home. Moreover, most women had a positive attitude towards TBAs and perceived them to be respectful, skilled, friendly, trustworthy, and available when they needed them.
Our findings suggest a need to empower women with decision-making skills regarding childbirth and to lower barriers that prevent them from going to the health facility in time. There is also need to improve the quality of existing facility-based delivery services and to strengthen linkages between TBAs and the formal health system.
PMCID: PMC4567794  PMID: 26361976
9.  The Influence of Distance and Level of Care on Delivery Place in Rural Zambia: A Study of Linked National Data in a Geographic Information System 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(1):e1000394.
Using linked national data in a geographic information system system, Sabine Gabrysch and colleagues investigate the effects of distance to care and level of care on women's use of health facilities for delivery in rural Zambia.
Maternal and perinatal mortality could be reduced if all women delivered in settings where skilled attendants could provide emergency obstetric care (EmOC) if complications arise. Research on determinants of skilled attendance at delivery has focussed on household and individual factors, neglecting the influence of the health service environment, in part due to a lack of suitable data. The aim of this study was to quantify the effects of distance to care and level of care on women's use of health facilities for delivery in rural Zambia, and to compare their population impact to that of other important determinants.
Methods and Findings
Using a geographic information system (GIS), we linked national household data from the Zambian Demographic and Health Survey 2007 with national facility data from the Zambian Health Facility Census 2005 and calculated straight-line distances. Health facilities were classified by whether they provided comprehensive EmOC (CEmOC), basic EmOC (BEmOC), or limited or substandard services. Multivariable multilevel logistic regression analyses were performed to investigate the influence of distance to care and level of care on place of delivery (facility or home) for 3,682 rural births, controlling for a wide range of confounders. Only a third of rural Zambian births occurred at a health facility, and half of all births were to mothers living more than 25 km from a facility of BEmOC standard or better. As distance to the closest health facility doubled, the odds of facility delivery decreased by 29% (95% CI, 14%–40%). Independently, each step increase in level of care led to 26% higher odds of facility delivery (95% CI, 7%–48%). The population impact of poor geographic access to EmOC was at least of similar magnitude as that of low maternal education, household poverty, or lack of female autonomy.
Lack of geographic access to emergency obstetric care is a key factor explaining why most rural deliveries in Zambia still occur at home without skilled care. Addressing geographic and quality barriers is crucial to increase service use and to lower maternal and perinatal mortality. Linking datasets using GIS has great potential for future research and can help overcome the neglect of health system factors in research and policy.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Approximately 360,000 women die each year in pregnancy and childbirth, of which more than 200,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, where a woman's lifetime risk of dying during or following pregnancy remains as high as 1 in 31 (compared to 1 in 4,300 in the developed world). The target of Millennium Development Goal 5 is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters by 2015. Most maternal and neonatal deaths in low-income countries could be prevented if all women delivered their babies in settings where skilled birth attendants (such as midwives) were available and could provide emergency obstetric care to both mothers and babies in case of complications. Yet every year roughly 50 million women give birth at home without skilled care.
Why was this study done?
The likelihood of a woman giving birth in a health facility under the care of a skilled birth attendant depends on many factors. These include characteristics of the mother and her family, such as education level and household wealth, and aspects of the health service environment—distance to the nearest health facility and the quality of care provided at that facility, for example. However, research to date has typically focused on household and individual factors, neglecting the influence of the health service environment on choice of delivery place, largely because suitable data was not available. In this study in rural Zambia, the researchers aimed to quantify the effects of the health service environment, namely distance to health care and the level of care provided, on pregnant women's use of health facilities for giving birth. To put these factors in context, the researchers compared the impact of distance to quality care on place of delivery to that of other important factors, such as poverty and education.
What did the researchers do and find?
Using a geographic information system (GIS), the researchers linked national household data (from the 2007 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey) with national facility data (from the 2005 Zambian Health Facility Census) and calculated straight-line distances between women's villages and health facilities. Health facilities were classified as providing comprehensive emergency obstetric care, basic emergency obstetric care, or limited or substandard services by using reported capability to perform a certain number of the eight emergency obstetric care signal functions: injectable antibiotics, injectable oxytocics, injectable anticonvulsants, manual removal of placenta, manual removal of retained products, assisted vaginal delivery, cesarean section, and blood transfusion, as well as criteria on staffing, opening hours and referral capacity. The researchers used data from 3,682 rural births and multivariable multilevel logistic regression analyses to investigate whether distance to, and level of care at the closest delivery facility influence place of delivery (health facility or home), keeping other influential factors constant.
The researchers found that only a third of births in rural Zambia occurred at a health facility, and half of all mothers who gave birth lived more than 25 km from a health facility that provided basic emergency obstetric services. As distance to the closest health facility doubled, the odds of a women giving birth in a health facility decreased by 29%. Independently, each step increase in the level of emergency obstetric care provided at the closest delivery facility led to an increased likelihood (26% higher odds) of a woman delivering her baby at a facility. The researchers estimated that the impact of poor geographic access to emergency obstetric services was of similar magnitude as that of low maternal education, household poverty, or lack of female autonomy.
What do these findings mean?
The results of this study suggest that poor geographic access to emergency obstetric care is a key factor in explaining why most women in rural Zambia still deliver their babies at home without skilled care. Therefore, in order to increase the number of women delivering in health facilities and thus reduce maternal and neonatal mortality, it is crucial to address the geographic and quality barriers to delivery service use. Furthermore, the methodology used in this study—linking datasets using GIS— has great potential for future research as it can help explore the influence of health system factors also for other health problems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information about emergency obstetric care is provided by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Various topics on maternal health are presented by WHO, WHO Regional Office Africa, by UNPFA, and UNICEF
WHO offers detailed information about MDG5
Family Care International offers more information about maternal and neonatal health
The Averting Maternal Death and Disability program (AMDD) provides information on needs assessments of emergency obstetric and newborn care
Countdown to 2015 tracks progress in maternal, newborn, and child survival
WHO provides free online viewing of BBC Fight for Life videos describing delivery experiences in different countries
PMCID: PMC3026699  PMID: 21283606
10.  Accounts of severe acute obstetric complications in Rural Bangladesh 
As maternal deaths have decreased worldwide, increasing attention has been placed on the study of severe obstetric complications, such as hemorrhage, eclampsia, and obstructed labor, to identify where improvements can be made in maternal health. Though access to medical care is considered to be life-saving during obstetric emergencies, data on the factors associated with health care decision-making during obstetric emergencies are lacking. We aim to describe the health care decision-making process during severe acute obstetric complications among women and their families in rural Bangladesh.
Using the pregnancy surveillance infrastructure from a large community trial in northwest rural Bangladesh, we nested a qualitative study to document barriers to timely receipt of medical care for severe obstetric complications. We conducted 40 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with women reporting severe acute obstetric complications and purposively selected for conditions representing the top five most common obstetric complications. The interviews were transcribed and coded to highlight common themes and to develop an overall conceptual model.
Women attributed their life-threatening experiences to societal and socioeconomic factors that led to delays in seeking timely medical care by decision makers, usually husbands or other male relatives. Despite the dominance of male relatives and husbands in the decision-making process, women who underwent induced abortions made their own decisions about their health care and relied on female relatives for advice. The study shows that non-certified providers such as village doctors and untrained birth attendants were the first-line providers for women in all categories of severe complications. Coordination of transportation and finances was often arranged through mobile phones, and referrals were likely to be provided by village doctors.
Strategies to increase timely and appropriate care seeking for severe obstetric complications may consider targeting of non-certified providers for strengthening of referral linkages between patients and certified facility-based providers. Future research may characterize the treatments and appropriateness of emergency care provided by ubiquitous village doctors and other non-certified treatment providers in rural South Asian settings. In addition, future studies may explore the use of mobile phones in decreasing delays to certified medical care during obstetric emergencies.
PMCID: PMC3250923  PMID: 22018330
11.  “Can community level interventions have an impact on equity and utilization of maternal health care” – Evidence from rural Bangladesh 
Evidence from low and middle income countries (LMICs) suggests that maternal mortality is more prevalent among the poor whereas access to maternal health services is concentrated among the rich. In Bangladesh substantial inequities exist both in the use of facility-based basic obstetric care and for home births attended by skilled birth attendant. BRAC initiated an intervention on Improving Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Survival (IMNCS) in the rural areas of Bangladesh in 2008. One of the objectives of the intervention is to improve the utilization of maternal and child health care services among the poor. This study aimed to look at the impact of the intervention on utilization and also on equity of access to maternal health services.
A quasi-experimental pre-post comparison study was conducted in rural areas of five districts comprising three intervention (Gaibandha, Rangpur and Mymensingh) and two comparison districts (Netrokona and Naogaon). Data on health seeking behaviour for maternal health were collected from a repeated cross sectional household survey conducted in 2008 and 2010.
Results show that the intervention appears to cause an increase in the utilization of antenatal care. The concentration index (CI) shows that this has become pro-poor over time (from CI: 0.30 to CI: 0.04) in the intervention areas. In contrast the use of ANC from medically trained providers has become pro-rich (from, CI: 0.18 to CI: 0.22). There was a significant increase in the utilisation of trained attendants for home delivery in the intervention areas compared to the comparison areas and the change was found to be pro-poor. Use of postnatal care cervices was also found to be pro-poor (from CI: 0.37 to CI: 0.14). Utilization of ANC services provided by medically trained provider did not improve in the intervention area. However, where the intervention had a positive effect on utilization it also seemed to have had a positive effect on equity.
To sustain equity in health care utilization, the IMNCS programme needs to continue providing free home based services. In addition to this, the programme should also continue to provide funding to bear the cost to those mothers who are not able to have the comprehensive ANC from medically trained providers.
PMCID: PMC3620556  PMID: 23547900
12.  Impact of community-based interventions on maternal and neonatal health indicators: Results from a community randomized trial in rural Balochistan, Pakistan 
Reproductive Health  2010;7:30.
Pakistan has high maternal mortality, particularly in the rural areas. The delay in decision making to seek medical care during obstetric emergencies remains a significant factor in maternal mortality.
We present results from an experimental study in rural Pakistan. Village clusters were randomly assigned to intervention and control arms (16 clusters each). In the intervention clusters, women were provided information on safe motherhood through pictorial booklets and audiocassettes; traditional birth attendants were trained in clean delivery and recognition of obstetric and newborn complications; and emergency transportation systems were set up. In eight of the 16 intervention clusters, husbands also received specially designed education materials on safe motherhood and family planning. Pre- and post-intervention surveys on selected maternal and neonatal health indicators were conducted in all 32 clusters. A district-wide survey was conducted two years after project completion to measure any residual impact of the interventions.
Pregnant women in intervention clusters received prenatal care and prophylactic iron therapy more frequently than pregnant women in control clusters. Providing safe motherhood education to husbands resulted in further improvement of some indicators. There was a small but significant increase in percent of hospital deliveries but no impact on the use of skilled birth attendants. Perinatal mortality reduced significantly in clusters where only wives received information and education in safe motherhood. The survey to assess residual impact showed similar results.
We conclude that providing safe motherhood education increased the probability of pregnant women having prenatal care and utilization of health services for obstetric complications.
PMCID: PMC2993657  PMID: 21054870
13.  Paternal Factors and Inequity Associated with Access to Maternal Health Care Service Utilization in Nepal: A Community Based Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0130380.
The threat of maternal mortality can be reduced by increasing use of maternal health services. Maternal death and access to maternal health care services are inequitable in low and middle income countries.The aim of this study is to assess associated paternal factors and degree of inequity in access to maternal health care service utilization.
Analysis illustrates on a cross-sectional household survey that followed multistage-cluster sampling. Concentration curve and indices were calculated. Binary logistic regression analysis was executed to account paternal factors associated with the utilization of maternal health services. Path model with structural equation modeling (SEM) examined the predictors of antenatal care (ANC) and institutional delivery.
The finding of this study revealed that 39.9% and 45.5% of the respondents’ wives made ANC visits and utilized institutional delivery services respectively. Men with graduate and higher level of education were more likely (AOR: 5.91, 95% CI; 4.02, 8.70) to have ANC of their wives than men with no education or primary level of education. Men with higher household income (Q5) were more likely (1.99, 95% CI; 1.39, 2.86) to have ANC for their wives. Similarly, higher household income (Q5) also determined (2.74, 95% CI; 1.81, 4.15) for institutional delivery of their wives. Concentration curve and indices also favored rich than the poor. SEM revealed that ANC visit was directly associated to institutional delivery.
Paternal factors like age, household wealth, number of children, ethnicity, education, knowledge of danger sign during pregnancy, and husband’s decision making for seeking maternal and child health care are crucial factors associated to maternal health service utilization. Higher ANC coverage predicts higher utilization of the institutional delivery. Wealthier population is more concentrated to maternal health services. The inequities between the poor and the rich are necessary to be addressed through effective policy and programs.
PMCID: PMC4479587  PMID: 26107621
14.  Economic Empowerment of Women and Utilization of Maternal Delivery Care in Bangladesh 
Maternal mortality is a major public health problem in low-income countries, such as Bangladesh. Women's empowerment in relation to enhanced utilization of delivery care is underexplored. This study investigates the associations between women's economic empowerment and their utilization of maternal health care services in Bangladesh.
In total, 4925 women (15–49 years of age) with at least one child from whole Bangladesh constituted the study sample. Home delivery without skilled birth attendant and use of institutional delivery services were the main outcome variables used for the analyses. Economic empowerment, neighborhood socioeconomic status, household economic status, and demographic factors were considered as explanatory variables. The chi square test and unadjusted and adjusted logistic regression analyses were applied at the collected data.
In the adjusted model, respondent's and husband's education, household economic status, and residency emerged as important predictors for utilization of delivery care services. In the unadjusted model, economically empowered working and microfinanced women displayed more home delivery.
The current study shows that use of delivery care services is associated with socioeconomic development and can be enhanced by societies that focus on general issues such as schooling, economic wellbeing, and gender-based discrimination.
PMCID: PMC3445279  PMID: 23024852
Empowerment; home delivery; maternal mortality; neighborhood socioeconomic status
15.  Maternal care practices among the ultra poor households in rural Bangladesh: a qualitative exploratory study 
Although many studies have been carried out to learn about maternal care practices in rural areas and urban-slums of Bangladesh, none have focused on ultra poor women. Understanding the context in which women would be willing to accept new practices is essential for developing realistic and relevant behaviour change messages. This study sought to fill in this knowledge gap by exploring maternal care practices among women who participated in a grant-based livelihood programme for the ultra poor. This is expected to assist the designing of the health education messages programme in an effort to improve maternal morbidity and survival towards achieving the UN millennium Development Goal 5.
Qualitative method was used to collect data on maternal care practices during pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum period from women in ultra poor households. The sample included both currently pregnant women who have had a previous childbirth, and lactating women, participating in a grant-based livelihood development programme. Rangpur and Kurigram districts in northern Bangladesh were selected for data collection.
Women usually considered pregnancy as a normal event unless complications arose, and most of them refrained from seeking antenatal care (ANC) except for confirmation of pregnancy, and no prior preparation for childbirth was taken. Financial constraints, coupled with traditional beliefs and rituals, delayed care-seeking in cases where complications arose. Delivery usually took place on the floor in the squatting posture and the attendants did not always follow antiseptic measures such as washing hands before conducting delivery. Following the birth of the baby, attention was mainly focused on the expulsion of the placenta and various maneuvres were adapted to hasten the process, which were sometimes harmful. There were multiple food-related taboos and restrictions, which decreased the consumption of protein during pregnancy and post-partum period. Women usually failed to go to the healthcare providers for illnesses in the post-partum period.
This study shows that cultural beliefs and norms have a strong influence on maternal care practices among the ultra poor households, and override the beneficial economic effects from livelihood support intervention. Some of these practices, often compromised by various taboos and beliefs, may become harmful at times. Health behavior education in this livelihood support program can be carefully tailored to local cultural beliefs to achieve better maternal outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3056829  PMID: 21362164
16.  Male engagement as a strategy to improve utilization and community-based delivery of maternal, newborn and child health services: evidence from an intervention in Odisha, India 
BMC Health Services Research  2015;15(Suppl 1):S5.
In response to persistently poor levels of maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) in rural India, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched to support the provision of accessible, affordable and quality health care in deprived and underserved communities. The Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), local women, are trained as health promoters to generate demand for, and facilitate access to MNCH care in their communities. While they are also expected to provide husbands of expectant women with information on MNCH care and family planning, their reach to the husbands is limited. The aim of this study is to describe the influence of a male engagement project on the utilization and community-based delivery of MNCH care in a rural district of the country.
We used qualitative data from the evaluation of a project which recruited and trained male Community Health Workers (CHWs) known as Male Health Activists (MHAs) to complement the work of ASHAs and target outreach to men. This paper uses data from in-depth interviews (IDIs) with ASHAs (n=11), Anganwadi Workers (AWWs) (n=4) and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) (n=2); with women who had delivered at home, community health center or district hospital in the few months preceding the date of the interview (n=11); and with husbands of these women (n=7).
Participants’ responses are broadly organized around the facilitation of ASHAs’ work by MHAs, and male engagement activities undertaken by MHAs. More specifically, the narratives reflected gender-based divisions of work and space in three core areas of delivery and use of MNCH services: escorting women to health centers for facility-based deliveries; mobilizing women and children to attend Village Health and Nutrition Days and Immunization Days; and raising awareness among men on MNCH and family planning.
This study sheds light on male engagement as a strategy to improve the delivery, access and uptake of maternal, newborn and child health in the context of prevailing gender norms and gendered roles in rural India. Ultimately, it unveils the complementarity of male and female CHWs in the community-based delivery of, and increased demand for, MNCH services.
PMCID: PMC4464214  PMID: 26062910
Male engagement; Maternal; newborn and child health; Community-based delivery; Odisha; India
17.  Childhood Malnutrition is Associated with Maternal Care During Pregnancy and Childbirth: A Cross-Sectional Study in Bauchi and Cross River States, Nigeria 
Malnutrition remains an important cause of childhood morbidity and mortality; the levels of childhood malnutrition in Nigeria are among the highest in the world. The literature supports many direct and indirect causes of malnutrition, but few studies have examined the link between maternal care during pregnancy and childbirth and childhood malnutrition. This study examines this potential link in Bauchi and Cross River states in Nigeria.
Design and methods
In 2011, a household survey collected information about children under four years old and their mothers’ last pregnancy. Trained fieldworkers measured mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) of children aged 6-47 months. We examined associations with childhood malnutrition in bivariate and multivariate analysis.
Some 4.4% of 3643 children in Cross River, and 14.7% of 2706 in Bauchi were malnourished (MUAC z-score). In both states, a child whose mother had fewer than four government antenatal care visits was more likely to be malnourished (Cross River: OR 1.85, 95%CIca 1.33-2.55; Bauchi: OR 1.29, 95%CIca 1.02-1.63). In Bauchi, a child whose mother who rarely or never discussed pregnancy and childbirth with her husband (OR 1.34, 95%CIca 1.07-1.68), and who did not have her last delivery attended by a skilled health worker was more likely to be malnourished (OR 1.50, 95%CIca 1.09-2.07).
These findings, if confirmed in other studies, suggest that poor care of women in pregnancy and childbirth could pose a longer term risk to the health of the child, as well as increasing immediate risks for both mother and child.
Significance for public healthChildhood malnutrition is a public health priority, accounting for almost 1/5 of global disease burden among children under five years old. Many studies have examined risk factors for childhood malnutrition, but few have examined the link between maternal care during pregnancy and childbirth and childhood malnutrition. This study, albeit a cross-sectional design, provides evidence of a link between poor care during pregnancy and childbirth and childhood malnutrition in two states of Nigeria. This is important for public health because it suggests another benefit of caring for women during pregnancy and childbirth. This could not only reduce maternal and child perinatal mortality, but also have benefits for the longer-term health and development of children. This finding could be useful for paternal advocacy; it may motivate men to support their wives during pregnancy and childbirth since through this support, fathers can also protect the future development of their children.
PMCID: PMC4407040  PMID: 25918695
childhood malnutrition; antenatal care; Nigeria
18.  A decade of inequality in maternity care: antenatal care, professional attendance at delivery, and caesarean section in Bangladesh (1991–2004) 
Bangladesh is committed to the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG-5) target of reducing its maternal mortality ratio by three-quarters between 1990 and 2015. Since the early 1990s, Bangladesh has followed a strategy of improving access to facilities equipped and staffed to provide emergency obstetric care (EmOC).
We used data from four Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 1993 and 2004 to examine trends in the proportions of live births preceded by antenatal consultation, attended by a health professional, and delivered by caesarean section, according to key socio-demographic characteristics.
Utilization of antenatal care increased substantially, from 24% in 1991 to 60% in 2004. Despite a relatively greater increase in rural than urban areas, utilization remained much lower among the poorest rural women without formal education (18%) compared with the richest urban women with secondary or higher education (99%). Professional attendance at delivery increased by 50% (from 9% to 14%, more rapidly in rural than urban areas), and caesarean sections trebled (from 2% to 6%), but these indicators remained low even by developing country standards. Within these trends there were huge inequalities; 86% of live births among the richest urban women with secondary or higher education were attended by a health professional, and 35% were delivered by caesarean section, compared with 2% and 0.1% respectively of live births among the poorest rural women without formal education. The trend in professional attendance was entirely confounded by socioeconomic and demographic changes, but education of the woman and her husband remained important determinants of utilization of obstetric services.
Despite commendable progress in improving uptake of antenatal care, and in equipping health facilities to provide emergency obstetric care, the very low utilization of these facilities, especially by poor women, is a major impediment to meeting MDG-5 in Bangladesh.
PMCID: PMC2014749  PMID: 17760962
19.  Determinants of antenatal and delivery care utilization in Tigray region, Ethiopia: a cross-sectional study 
Despite the international emphasis in the last few years on the need to address the unmet health needs of pregnant women and children, progress in reducing maternal mortality has been slow. This is particularly worrying in sub-Saharan Africa where over 162,000 women still die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, most of them because of the lack of access to skilled delivery attendance and emergency care. With a maternal mortality ratio of 673 per 100,000 live births and 19,000 maternal deaths annually, Ethiopia is a major contributor to the worldwide death toll of mothers. While some studies have looked at different risk factors for antenatal care (ANC) and delivery service utilisation in the country, information coming from community-based studies related to the Health Extension Programme (HEP) in rural areas is limited. This study aims to determine the prevalence of maternal health care utilisation and explore its determinants among rural women aged 15–49 years in Tigray, Ethiopia.
The study was a community-based cross-sectional survey using a structured questionnaire. A cluster sampling technique was used to select women who had given birth at least once in the five years prior to the survey period. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were carried out to elicit the impact of each factor on ANC and institutional delivery service utilisation.
The response rate was 99% (n=1113). The mean age of the participants was 30.4 years. The proportion of women who received ANC for their recent births was 54%; only 46 (4.1%) of women gave birth at a health facility. Factors associated with ANC utilisation were marital status, education, proximity of health facility to the village, and husband’s occupation, while use of institutional delivery was mainly associated with parity, education, having received ANC advice, a history of difficult/prolonged labour, and husbands’ occupation.
A relatively acceptable utilisation of ANC services but extremely low institutional delivery was observed. Classical socio-demographic factors were associated with both ANC and institutional delivery attendance. ANC advice can contribute to increase institutional delivery use. Different aspects of HEP need to be strengthened to improve maternal health in Tigray.
PMCID: PMC3658893  PMID: 23672203
20.  Skilled Care at Birth among Rural Women in Nepal: Practice and Challenges 
In Nepal, most births take place at home, and many, particularly in rural areas, are not attended by a skilled birth attendant. The main objectives of the study were to assess the use of skilled delivery care and barriers to access such care in a rural community and to assess health problems during delivery and seeking care. This cross-sectional study was carried out in two Village Development Committees in Nepal in 2006. In total, 150 women who had a live birth in the 24 months preceding the survey were interviewed using a structured questionnaire. The sample population included married women aged 15-49 years. Forty-six (31%) women delivered their babies at hospital, and 104 (69%) delivered at home. The cost of delivery at hospital was significantly (p<0.001) higher than that of a delivery at home. Results of univariate analysis showed that women from Brahmin-Chhetri ethnicity, women with higher education or who were more skilled, whose husbands had higher education and more skilled jobs, had first or second childbirth, and having adverse previous obstetric history were associated with institutional delivery while women with higher education and having an adverse history of pregnancy outcome predicted the uptake of skilled delivery care in Nepal. The main perceived problems to access skilled delivery care were: distance to hospital, lack of transportation, lack of awareness on delivery care, and cost. The main reasons for seeking intrapartum care were long labour, retained placenta, and excessive bleeding. Only a quarter of women sought care immediately after problems occurred. The main reasons seeking care late were: the woman or her family not perceiving that there was a serious problem, distance to health facility, and lack of transport. The use of skilled birth attendants at delivery among rural women in Nepal is very poor. Home delivery by unskilled birth attendants is still a common practice among them. Many associated factors relating to the use of skilled delivery care that were identified included age, education and occupation of women, and education and occupation of husbands. Therefore, the availability of skilled delivery care services at the community, initiation of a primary health centre with skilled staff for delivery, and increasing awareness among women to seek skilled delivery care are the best solution.
PMCID: PMC3190368  PMID: 21957676
Childbirth; Cross-sectional studies; Descriptive studies; Delivery; Rural health services; Skilled attendants; Nepal
21.  Using the community-based health planning and services program to promote skilled delivery in rural Ghana: socio-demographic factors that influence women utilization of skilled attendants at birth in Northern Ghana 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:344.
The burden of maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is enormous. In Ghana the maternal mortality ratio was 350 per 100,000 live births in 2010. Skilled birth attendance has been shown to reduce maternal deaths and disabilities, yet in 2010 only 68% of mothers in Ghana gave birth with skilled birth attendants. In 2005, the Ghana Health Service piloted an enhancement of its Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) program, training Community Health Officers (CHOs) as midwives, to address the gap in skilled attendance in rural Upper East Region (UER). The study determined the extent to which CHO-midwives skilled delivery program achieved its desired outcomes in UER among birthing women.
We conducted a cross-sectional household survey with women who had ever given birth in the three years prior to the survey. We employed a two stage sampling techniques: In the first stage we proportionally selected enumeration areas, and the second stage involved random selection of households. In each household, where there is more than one woman with a child within the age limit, we interviewed the woman with the youngest child. We collected data on awareness of the program, use of the services and factors that are associated with skilled attendants at birth.
A total of 407 households/women were interviewed. Eighty three percent of respondents knew that CHO-midwives provided delivery services in CHPS zones. Seventy nine percent of the deliveries were with skilled attendants; and over half of these skilled births (42% of total) were by CHO-midwives. Multivariate analyses showed that women of the Nankana ethnic group and those with uneducated husbands were less likely to access skilled attendants at birth in rural settings.
The implementation of the CHO-midwife program in UER appeared to have contributed to expanded skilled delivery care access and utilization for rural women. However, women of the Nankana ethnic group and uneducated men must be targeted with health education to improve women utilizing skilled delivery services in rural communities of the region.
PMCID: PMC4020603  PMID: 24721385
Community-based service delivery; Ghana; Maternal mortality; Women service utilization; Skilled attendants at birth
22.  Reasons rural Laotians choose home deliveries over delivery at health facilities: a qualitative study 
Maternal mortality among poor rural women in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) is among the highest in Southeast Asia, in part because only 15% give birth at health facilities. This study explored why women and their families prefer home deliveries to deliveries at health facilities.
A qualitative study was conducted from December 2008 to February 2009 in two provinces of Lao PDR. Data was collected through eight focus group discussions (FGD) as well as through in-depth interviews with 12 mothers who delivered at home during the last year, eight husbands and eight grandmothers, involving a total of 71 respondents. Content analysis was used to analyze the FGD and interview transcripts.
Obstacles to giving birth at health facilities included: (1) Distance to the health facilities and difficulties and costs of getting there; (2) Attitudes, quality of care, and care practices at the health facilities, including a horizontal birth position, episiotomies, lack of privacy, and the presence of male staff; (3) The wish to have family members nearby and the need for women to be close to their other children and the housework; and (4) The wish to follow traditional birth practices such as giving birth in a squatting position and lying on a “hot bed” after delivery. The decision about where to give birth was commonly made by the woman’s husband, mother, mother-in-law or other relatives in consultation with the woman herself.
This study suggests that the preference in rural Laos for giving birth at home is due to convenience, cost, comfort and tradition. In order to assure safer births and reduce rural Lao PDR’s high maternal mortality rate, health centers could consider accommodating the wishes and traditional practices of many rural Laotians: allowing family in the birthing rooms; allowing traditional practices; and improving attitudes among staff. Traditional birth attendants, women, and their families could be taught and encouraged to recognize the signs of at-risk pregnancies so as to be able to reach health facilities on time.
PMCID: PMC3449206  PMID: 22925107
23.  The Role of HIV-Related Stigma in Utilization of Skilled Childbirth Services in Rural Kenya: A Prospective Mixed-Methods Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001295.
Janet Turan and colleagues examined the role of the perception of women in rural Kenya of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy on their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Childbirth with a skilled attendant is crucial for preventing maternal mortality and is an important opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma Study (MAMAS Study) is a prospective mixed-methods investigation conducted in a high HIV prevalence area in rural Kenya, in which we examined the role of women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma during pregnancy in their subsequent utilization of maternity services.
Methods and Findings
From 2007–2009, 1,777 pregnant women with unknown HIV status completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire assessing their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal care visit. After the visit, a sub-sample of women was selected for follow-up (all women who tested HIV-positive or were not tested for HIV, and a random sample of HIV-negative women, n = 598); 411 (69%) were located and completed another questionnaire postpartum. Additional qualitative in-depth interviews with community health workers, childbearing women, and family members (n = 48) aided our interpretation of the quantitative findings and highlighted ways in which HIV-related stigma may influence birth decisions. Qualitative data revealed that health facility birth is commonly viewed as most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications, such as HIV. Thus, women delivering at health facilities face the risk of being labeled as HIV-positive in the community. Our quantitative data revealed that women with higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma (specifically those who held negative attitudes about persons living with HIV) at baseline were subsequently less likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant, even after adjusting for other known predictors of health facility delivery (adjusted odds ratio = 0.44, 95% CI 0.22–0.88).
Our findings point to the urgent need for interventions to reduce HIV-related stigma, not only for improving quality of life among persons living with HIV, but also for better health outcomes among all childbearing women and their families.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Every year, nearly 350,000 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications. Almost all these “maternal” deaths occur in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the maternal mortality ratio (the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) is 500 whereas in industrialized countries it is only 12. Most maternal deaths are caused by hemorrhage (severe bleeding after childbirth), post-delivery infections, obstructed (difficult) labor, and blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. All these conditions can be prevented if women have access to adequate reproductive health services and if trained health care workers are present during delivery. Notably, in sub-Saharan Africa, infection with HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) is an increasingly important contributor to maternal mortality. HIV infection causes maternal mortality directly by increasing the occurrence of pregnancy complications and indirectly by increasing the susceptibility of pregnant women to malaria, tuberculosis, and other “opportunistic” infections—HIV-positive individuals are highly susceptible to other infections because HIV destroys the immune system.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although skilled delivery attendants reduce maternal mortality, there are many barriers to their use in developing countries including cost and the need to travel long distances to health facilities. Fears and experiences of HIV-related stigma and discrimination (prejudice, negative attitudes, abuse, and maltreatment directed at people living with HIV) may also be a barrier to the use of skilled childbirth service. Maternity services are prime locations for HIV testing and for the provision of interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV, so pregnant women know that they will have to “deal with” the issue of HIV when visiting these services. In this prospective mixed-methods study, the researchers examine the role of pregnant women's perceptions of HIV-related stigma in their subsequent use of maternity services in Nyanza Province, Kenya, a region where 16% women aged 15–49 are HIV-positive and where only 44.2% of mothers give birth in a health facility. A mixed-methods study combines qualitative data—how people feel about an issue—with quantitative data—numerical data about outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Maternity in Migori and AIDS Stigma (MAMAS) study, pregnant women with unknown HIV status living in rural regions of Nyanza Province answered questions about their perceptions of HIV-related stigma before being offered HIV testing during their first antenatal clinic visit. After delivery, the researchers asked the women who tested HIV positive or were not tested for HIV and a sample of HIV-negative women where they had delivered their baby. They also gathered qualitative information about barriers to maternity and HIV service use by interviewing childbearing women, family members, and community health workers. The qualitative data indicate that labor in a health facility is commonly viewed as being most appropriate for women with pregnancy complications such as HIV infection. Thus, women delivering at health facilities risk being labeled as HIV positive, a label that the community associates with promiscuity. The quantitative data indicate that women with more negative attitudes about HIV-positive people (higher perceptions of HIV-related stigma) at baseline were about half as likely to deliver in a health facility with a skilled attendant as women with more positive attitudes about people living with HIV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-related stigma is associated with the low rate of delivery by skilled attendants in rural areas of Nyanza Province and possibly in other rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Community mobilization efforts aimed at increasing the use of PMTCT services may be partly responsible for the strong perception that delivery in a health facility is most appropriate for women with HIV and other pregnancy complications and may have inadvertently strengthened the perception that women who give birth in such facilities are likely to be HIV positive. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health messages should stress that delivery in a health facility is recommended for all women, not just HIV-positive women or those with pregnancy complications, and that interventions should be introduced to reduce HIV-related stigma. This combined strategy has the potential to increase the use of maternity services by all women and the use of HIV and PMTCT services, thereby reducing some of the most pressing health problems facing women and their children in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) provides information on maternal mortality, including the WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA/World Bank 2008 country estimates of maternal mortality; a UNICEF special report tells the stories of seven mothers living with HIV in Lesotho
The World Health Organization provides information on maternal health, including information about Millennium Development Goal 5, which aims to reduce maternal mortality (in several languages); the Millennium Development Goals, which were agreed by world leaders in 2000, are designed to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2015
Immpact is a global research initiative for the evaluation of safe motherhood intervention strategies
Maternal Death: The Avoidable Crisis is a briefing paper published by the independent humanitarian medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in March 2012
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on women, HIV and AIDS, on HIV and pregnancy, on HIV and AIDS stigma and discrimination, and on HIV in Kenya (in English and Spanish); Avert also has personal stories from women living with HIV
The Stigma Action Network (SAN) is a collaborative endeavor that aims to comprehensively coordinate efforts to develop and expand program, research, and advocacy strategies for reducing HIV stigma worldwide, including mobilizing stakeholders, delivering program and policy solutions, and maximizing investments in HIV programs and services globally
The People Living with Stigma Index aims to address stigma relating to HIV and advocate on key barriers and issues perpetuating stigma; it has recently published Piecing it together for women and girls, the gender dimensions of HIV-related stigma
The Health Policy Project has prepared a review of the academic and programmatic literature on stigma and discrimination as barriers to achievement of global goals for maternal health and the elimination of new child HIV infections (see under Resources)
More information on the MAMAS study is available from the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
PMCID: PMC3424253  PMID: 22927800
24.  Attendance and Utilization of Antenatal Care (ANC) Services: Multi-Center Study in Upcountry Areas of Uganda 
Globally every year 529,000 maternal deaths occur, 99% of this in developing countries. Uganda has high maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality ratios, typical of many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Recent findings reveal maternal mortality ratio of 435:100,000 live births and neonatal mortality rate of 29 deaths per 1000 live births in Uganda; these still remain a challenge. Women in rural areas of Uganda are two times less likely to attend ANC than the urban women. Most women in Uganda have registered late ANC attendance, averagely at 5.5 months of pregnancy and do not complete the required four visits. The inadequate utilization of ANC is greatly contributing to persisting high rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in Uganda. This study was set to identify the factors associated with late booking and inadequate utilization of Antenatal Care services in upcountry areas of Uganda.
Cross-sectional study design with mixed methods of interviewer administered questionnaires, focus group discussions and key informant interviews. Data was entered using Epidata and analyzed using Stata into frequency tables using actual tallies and percentages. Ethical approval was sought from SOM-REC MakCHS under approval number “#REC REF 2012-117” before conducting the study.
A total of four hundred one were enrolled with the majority being in the age group 20 – 24 years (mean age, 25.87 ± 6.26). Health workers played a great role (72.04%), followed by the media (15.46%) and friends (12.50%) in creating awareness about ANC. A significant number of respondents went to TBAs with reasons such as “near and accessible”, “my husband decided”, and “they are the only people I know”. 37.63% of the respondents considered getting an antenatal Card as an importance of ANC. 71 (19.67%) respondents gave a wrong opinion (late) on booking time with reasons like demands at work, no problems during pregnancy, advised by friends, just to get a card, long distance and others didn’t know. Almost half of the respondents never knew the recommended number of visits. Religion, occupation, level of education, and parity were found to influence place of ANC attendance, number of ANC visits and booking time. Husbands were necessary to provide financial support, accompany their wives ANC clinic, and ensure that they complete the visits. But their response was poor due to: fear of routine investigations and constrained economically.
The study findings show the actual rural setting of ANC services attendance and utilization. Much sensitization has to be done specifically in these rural areas to empower pregnant women and their husbands as to improve ANC attendance and utilization.
PMCID: PMC4450446  PMID: 26042190
Antenatal Care; ANC; Utilization; Attendance
25.  Why do women not deliver in health facilities: a qualitative study of the community perspectives in south central Ethiopia? 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7:556.
In Ethiopia most childbirth occurs at home and is not assisted by skilled birth attendants. On the other hand having a birth attendant with midwifery skills during child birth is one of the most important interventions in reducing maternal morbidity and mortality. The objective of this study was to make an in-depth assessment of reasons why mothers do not use health facilities for child delivery.
Focus Group Discussions were used to gather information on use of health facilities for delivery in Butajira districts of South Central Ethiopia. The study was conducted from January to February 2012. Information was collected from four groups of women who had delivered in the past two years and four groups of men whose wives/partners have delivered in the same period. Data was coded and categorized using open code, qualitative data management software and analyzed based on thematic analysis.
A total of eight FGD sessions, four with women and four with men groups were conducted involving 81 residents of the Butajira district. FGD participants answered that a large majority of women in the district gave birth at home. Two major themes, client related factors and facility/staff factors, emerged. Factors that emerged within major themes of client factors were decision making on place of delivery, reliance on Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs), misconception about services provided at health facility, inability of family members to be present at time of labor and delivery, lack of privacy, traditional and/or spiritual factors, economic factors and accessibility to health care facilities. Within major themes of facility/staff factors subthemes that emerged were poor reception, refusal of admission, lack of privacy, information gap, poor competence and shortage of staff and materials at health facilities.
Women in the study areas do not deliver in health facilities because of reasons that can be attributed to health care system and client related factors. These need to be addressed by considering the specific factors related to the health system and community perspectives.
PMCID: PMC4155096  PMID: 25143017
Qualitative; Delivery; Skilled attendant at birth; Community perspective; Ethiopia

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