A review of 35 studies of engagement of men in maternal and newborn health in Sub-Saharan countries concludes that they need to be better informed, particularly about what to do if there are birth complications. This could improve health outcomes and lower the risk of maternal mortality. It must be done in a way that does not compromise women’s autonomy or safety and may need to involve training for healthcare workers.
The 35 studies covered 14,550 participants between them – women, their partners, health workers and community leaders. The studies came from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
The studies show that partners are centrally involved in decision-making, along with others in the family. Men are typically emotionally involved also, reporting fear, worry and loss after the experience of a birth complication.
The knowledge of men about maternal health is low across all the studies. (The review does not discuss how low compared to women.) Both women and men want men to be better informed. Men, however, are not always welcomed in health settings.
Evidence from robust evaluations of interventions is scarce. Once service, Home Based Life Saving Skills, showed a strong increase in the knowledge of partners about birth complications, danger signs and how to seek help when needed.
The reviewers say that the very mixed picture from the research shows that research and practice are still in an ‘emergent’ stage.
Forbes F, Wynter K, Zeleke BM & Fisher J (2021), Male partner involvement in birth preparedness, complication readiness and obstetric emergencies in Sub-Saharan Africa: A scoping review, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 21
Header photo: H6 Partners. Creative Commons.