Title

Socio-cultural factors influencing male involvement in reproductive health during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period in rural districts of Malawi

Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Exercise, Biomedical and health Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Sarah Chivers

Abstract

This thesis focuses on socio cultural factors influencing male involvement in reproductive health during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period in rural districts of Malawi. This research stems from my fourteen years of experience in designing and overseeing the implementation of reproductive health services in Malawi, which led me to question why men as partners/husbands are not considered in the design and implementation of such services. Men as partners/husbands bear witness to most of the reproductive health problems that women go through and they are in a position of power, making decisions for their families‟ welfare. In addition to men‟s lack of inclusion, the high maternal mortality further provides the impetus to identify reproductive health interventions that will improve maternal and neonatal outcomes. Several reports have shown that involving men in matters of fertility regulation and HIV prevention have yielded positive results; however involving men in pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period have not been explored, particularly in developing countries like Malawi. Thus, from a public health point of view, determining why men are not currently involved and how they may become involved in reproductive health during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period are central to this analysis. To answer these questions, exploratory qualitative research was undertaken between February and July of 2008 with key stakeholders in four rural and two urban districts of Malawi. Data were collected from eight focus groups of men and women who are citizens of Malawi; additional data came from twenty eight in-depth interviews with Traditional Chiefs, Traditional Birth Attendants, health professionals, civil society groups, and Ministry of Health officials. Participants were asked about the meanings of male involvement and reproductive health, barriers to male involvement and ways to overcome barriers. Gender similarities and differences in the perceptions and attitudes of men and women about men‟s involvement during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period were identified.

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