Although men potentially play an important role in emergency obstetric care in Sub-Saharan Africa, few studies have examined the ways in which men are involved in such emergencies, the consequences of their involvement or the degree to which health facilities accommodate men.
Qualitative interviews were conducted with 39 mothers and fathers in two districts in Northern and Central Ghana who had experienced obstetric emergencies, such as severe birth complications, to obtain narratives about those experiences. In addition, interviews with six health facility workers and eight focus group discussions with community members were conducted. Transcripts were analyzed using an inductive analytic approach.
Although some men had not been involved at all during their partner's obstetric emergency, two-thirds had provided some combination of financial, emotional and instrumental support. On the other hand, several men had acted as gatekeepers, and their control of resources and decisions had resulted in care-seeking delays. Although many respondents reported that health facilities accommodated male partners (e.g., by providing an appropriate space for men during delivery), others found that facilities were not accommodating, in some cases ignoring or disrespecting men. A few respondents had encountered improper staff expectations, notably that men would accompany their partner to the facility, a requirement that limits women's autonomy and delays care.
Policies and programs should promote supportive behavior by men during obstetric emergencies while empowering women. Health facility policies regarding accommodation of men during obstetric emergencies need to consider women's and men's preferences. Research should examine whether particular forms of support improve maternal and newborn health outcomes.
William T. Story is assistant professor, Department of Community and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA. Clare Barrington is associate professor, Department of Health Behavior, and Kavita Singh is research associate professor, Department of Maternal and Child Health—both at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. Corinne Fordham is program officer, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Baltimore, MD, USA. Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey is senior technical director, Africa Region, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Accra, Ghana. Pierre M. Barker is chief global partnerships and programs officer, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Cambridge, MA, USA.