Why don’t fathers participate in antenatal care? (Uganda)

Fathers in Uganda

The attendance of men in antenatal clinics in the Wakiso District in Uganda is very low – just 6% are consistently involved in antenatal care, that is attending four antenatal clinics.

Two researchers, Kinuthia Kariuki and Gloria Seruwagi, set out to find out why. They interviewed 384 fathers of babies up to 24 months old as well as 10 other men and 11 other women who had knowledge of antenatal services.

The researchers argue that just 6% of men attending clinics is a problem, given other research showing that their participation influences decisions about when to attend clinics, the choice of transport and receiving treatment, particularly if the treatment has to be paid for.

The four main reasons given by men not being consistently involved are:

  • Too busy, 27.4%
  • Not my responsibility, 19.7%
  • Long waiting time, 14.7%
  • Inflexibility of clinic times, 10.5%

One of the other women consulted maintained, however, that the “too busy” argument actually just reflects a patriarchal division of labour, arguing that no man is actually too busy to do so. The truth is probably somewhere inbetween.

Men who were not consistently involved were more likely to report:

  • Having had an unplanned pregnancy
  • Other members of the family influencing them against participating
  • A culture not encouraging men’s attendance
  • No plans made to attend clinics
  • Not being involved in decision-making about where to go for antenatal care
  • Other family members living in the home
  • Peer influence against attending
  • Not living with the pregnant woman at the time of the birth

Men more consistently involved were better educated on average, were older, had higher income and were married.

Less consistent involvement was also associated with reports of negative attitudes of health staff, long waiting times at the antenatal clinic and higher costs of antenatal services.


Kariuki KF & Seruwagi GK (2016), Determinants of male partner involvement in antenatal care in Wakiso District, Uganda, British Journal of Medicine & Medical Research 18

Photo: Ericsson. Creative Commons.