An analysis of demographic and health data in Ethiopia has found an association between attendance of expectant fathers at antenatal clinics and three aspects of maternal health: more likelihood of receiving a urine test and of a blood test, and more likelihood of receiving counselling warning of potential health complications.
The study authors recommend changes in maternal healthcare systems to engage men better, including training of healthcare workers. There is a strategy in Ethiopia to involve men in maternal and newborn healthcare, but the authors observe that implementation of this strategy is unclear.
Women attending with their partners were also three times more likely to receive all recommended components of antenatal care, though the number in the sample was too small to be statistically significant – this apparently large effect needs to be observed in a bigger sample before drawing conclusions from it.
Data were analysed from the Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (2011). The selected data of 1204 couples only included women who had received antenatal care at some point and whose partner had answered a question about attending appointments (yes or no).
The researchers found no correlation between increased women’s autonomy and any of the health outcomes measured. This contradicts other studies. One explanation is that this sample only included women who were already attending antenatal facilities, indicating a degree of autonomy in the whole sample.
The nature of the sample – women already engaged in healthcare – may also explain why increased attendance of men had no impact on the extent of women’s use of the healthcare: commencing antenatal appointments in the first trimester and attending at least 4 antenatal appointments.
The researchers also tested to see if a woman’s belief that “wife beating” is acceptable had any impact on the relationship between men’s attendance and positive outcomes. No impact was found.
Forbes F, Wynter K, Wade C, Zeleke BM & Fisher J (2018), Male partner attendance at antenatal care and adherence to antenatal care guidelines: secondary analysis of 2011 Ethiopian demographic and health survey data, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 18