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Open Access Research article

Malawian fathers’ views and experiences of attending the birth of their children: a qualitative study

Lucy Ida Kululanga1*, Address Malata2, Ellen Chirwa2 and Johanne Sundby3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community and Mental Health, Kamuzu College of Nursing, University of Malawi, P.O. Box 415, Blantyre, Malawi

2 Department of Maternal and Child Health, Kamuzu College of Nursing, University of Malawi, Private Bag 1, Lilongwe, Malawi

3 Department of Community Medicine, Institute of Health and Society, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1130, Blindern, Oslo, 0318, Norway

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:141  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-141

Published: 5 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Exploring the experiences and views of men who had attended the birth of their children is very vital, especially in a setting where traditionally only women accord women support during labour and childbirth. The insights drawn from the male partners’ views and experiences could enhance the current woman-centred midwifery model that encompasses the needs of the baby, the woman’s family and other people important to the woman, as defined and negotiated by the woman herself. This paper explored the views and experiences of men who attended the birth of their children from two private hospitals in an urban setting in southern Malawi.

Methods

This study used an exploratory descriptive qualitative approach. The data were collected through in-depth interviews from 20 men from Blantyre, a city in the southern part of Malawi, who consented to participate in the study. These men attended the birth of their children at Blantyre Adventist and Mlambe Mission Hospitals within the past two years prior to data collection in August 2010. A semi-structure interview guide was used to collect data. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the data set.

Results

Four themes were identified to explain the experiences and views of men about attending childbirth. The themes were motivation; positive experiences; negative experiences; reflection and resolutions. The negative experiences had four sub-themes namely shame and embarrassment, helplessness and unprepared, health care provider – male partner tension, and exclusion from decision-making process.

Conclusions

The findings showed that with proper motivational information, enabling environment, positive midwives’ attitude and spouse willingness, it is possible to involve male partners during childbirth in Malawi. Midwives, women and male peers are vital in the promotion of male involvement during childbirth. In addition, midwives have a duty to ensure that men are well prepared for the labour and childbirth processes for the experience to be a positive one.

Keywords:
Male partner; Childbirth; Support; Labour; Malawi