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Open Access Research article

Delivering at home or in a health facility? health-seeking behaviour of women and the role of traditional birth attendants in Tanzania

Constanze Pfeiffer12* and Rosemarie Mwaipopo34

Author Affiliations

1 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland

2 University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

3 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

4 Gender Centre, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-55

Published: 28 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Traditional birth attendants retain an important role in reproductive and maternal health in Tanzania. The Tanzanian Government promotes TBAs in order to provide maternal and neonatal health counselling and initiating timely referral, however, their role officially does not include delivery attendance. Yet, experience illustrates that most TBAs still often handle complicated deliveries. Therefore, the objectives of this research were to describe (1) women’s health-seeking behaviour and experiences regarding their use of antenatal (ANC) and postnatal care (PNC); (2) their rationale behind the choice of place and delivery; and to learn (3) about the use of traditional practices and resources applied by traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and how they can be linked to the bio-medical health system.

Methods

Qualitative and quantitative interviews were conducted with over 270 individuals in Masasi District, Mtwara Region and Ilala Municipality, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Results

The results from the urban site show that significant achievements have been made in terms of promoting pregnancy- and delivery-related services through skilled health workers. Pregnant women have a high level of awareness and clearly prefer to deliver at a health facility. The scenario is different in the rural site (Masasi District), where an adequately trained health workforce and well-equipped health facilities are not yet a reality, resulting in home deliveries with the assistance of either a TBA or a relative.

Conclusions

Instead of focusing on the traditional sector, it is argued that more attention should be paid towards (1) improving access to as well as strengthening the health system to guarantee delivery by skilled health personnel; and (2) bridging the gaps between communities and the formal health sector through community-based counselling and health education, which is provided by well-trained and supervised village health workers who inform villagers about promotive and preventive health services, including maternal and neonatal health.

Keywords:
Maternal health; Traditional birth attendants; Health facility delivery; Pregnancy; Tanzania