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Perspectives of men on antenatal and delivery care service utilisation in rural western Kenya: a qualitative study

Titus K Kwambai123*, Stephanie Dellicour13, Meghna Desai14, Charles A Ameh3, Bobbie Person5, Florence Achieng1, Linda Mason6, Kayla F Laserson147 and Feiko O ter Kuile3

Author Affiliations

1 KEMRI/CDC Research and Public Health Collaboration, Kisumu, Kenya

2 Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, Nairobi, Kenya

3 Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK

4 Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, Center for Global Health, Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

5 National Centre for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

6 Department of Public Health and Policy, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK

7 Center for Global Health, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:134  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-134

Published: 21 June 2013



Poor utilisation of facility-based antenatal and delivery care services in Kenya hampers reduction of maternal mortality. Studies suggest that the participation of men in antenatal and delivery care is associated with better health care seeking behaviour, yet many reproductive health programs do not facilitate their involvement. This qualitative study conducted in rural Western Kenya, explored men’s perceptions of antenatal and delivery care services and identified factors that facilitated or constrained their involvement.


Eight focus group discussions were conducted with 68 married men between 20-65 years of age in May 2011. Participants were of the Luo ethnic group residing in Asembo, western Kenya. The area has a high HIV-prevalence and polygamy is common. A topic guide was used to guide the discussions and a thematic framework approach for data analysis.


Overall, men were positive in their views of antenatal and delivery care, as decision makers they often encouraged, some even ‘forced’, their wives to attend for antenatal or delivery care. Many reasons why it was beneficial to accompany their wives were provided, yet few did this in practice unless there was a clinical complication. The three main barriers relating to cultural norms identified were: 1) pregnancy support was considered a female role; and the male role that of provider; 2) negative health care worker attitudes towards men’s participation, and 3) couple unfriendly antenatal and delivery unit infrastructure.


Although men reported to facilitate their wives’ utilisation of antenatal and delivery care services, this does not translate to practice as adherence to antenatal-care schedules and facility based delivery is generally poor. Equally, reasons proffered why they should accompany their wives are not carried through into practice, with barriers outweighing facilitators. Recommendations to improve men involvement and potentially increase services utilisation include awareness campaigns targeting men, exploring promotion of joint HIV testing and counselling, staff training, and design of couple friendly antenatal and delivery units.

Pregnancy; Antenatal care; Delivery care; Decision making; Male involvement