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Open Access Research article

Male involvement during pregnancy and childbirth: men’s perceptions, practices and experiences during the care for women who developed childbirth complications in Mulago Hospital, Uganda

Dan K Kaye1*, Othman Kakaire1, Annettee Nakimuli1, Michael O Osinde2, Scovia N Mbalinda3 and Nelson Kakande4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7072 Kampala, Uganda

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jinja Regional Hospital, Jinja, Uganda

3 Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, P.O. Box 7072 Kampala, Uganda

4 Clinical, Operations and Health Services Research Program, Joint Clinical Research Centre, P. O. Box 10005 Kampala, Uganda

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:54  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-54

Published: 31 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Development of appropriate interventions to increase male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth is vital to strategies for improving health outcomes of women with obstetric complications. The objective was to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences of male involvement in their partners’ healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. The findings might inform interventions for increasing men’s involvement in reproductive health issues.

Methods

We conducted 16 in-depth interviews with men who came to the hospital to attend to their spouses/partners admitted to Mulago National Referral Hospital. All the spouses/partners had developed severe obstetric complications and were admitted in the high dependency unit. We sought to obtain detailed descriptions of men’s experiences, their perception of an ideal “father” and the challenges in achieving this ideal status. We also assessed perceived strategies for increasing male participation in their partners’ healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. Data was analyzed by content analysis.

Results

The identified themes were: Men have different descriptions of their relationships; responsibility was an obligation; ideal fathers provide support to mothers during childbirth; the health system limits male involvement in childbirth; men have no clear roles during childbirth, and exclusion and alienation in the hospital environment. The men described qualities of the ideal father as one who was available, easily reached, accessible and considerate. Most men were willing to learn about their expected roles during childbirth and were eager to support their partners/wives/spouses during this time. However, they identified personal, relationship, family and community factors as barriers to their involvement. They found the health system unwelcoming, intimidating and unsupportive. Suggestions to improve men’s involvement include creating more awareness for fathers, male-targeted antenatal education and support, and changing provider attitudes.

Conclusions

This study generates information on perceived roles, expectations, experiences and challenges faced by men who wish to be involved in maternal health issues, particularly during pregnancy and childbirth. There is discord between the policy and practice on male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth. Health system factors that are critical to promoting male involvement in women’s health issues during pregnancy and childbirth need to be addressed.