Study looks at men’s roles in obstetric emergencies in Ghana

Published on May 8, 2017

A recent study from the University of Iowa looked at ways in which men are involved in obstetric emergencies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As men become more involved in childbirth in low- and middle-income countries such as Ghana, researchers believe it is important to identify the most effective ways to involve them during labor and delivery, especially during an obstetric emergency.

A portrait of William Story of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health in the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa.
William Story

The study, led by Will Story, assistant professor of community and behavioral health at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, used data that was collected as part of the Maternal and Newborns Referral Project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Dr. Kavita Singh at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The research team conducted and evaluated qualitative interviews with 39 mothers and fathers in two districts in Northern and Central Ghana who had experienced obstetric emergencies as well as interviews with six health facility workers and eight focus group discussions with community members.

According to Story, the research showed that male involvement during obstetric emergencies operated across a spectrum of behaviors—from helpful to harmful.

“Although most men provided money and transportation to help their partner obtain care or helped them find a blood donor during the emergency, some men were either absent or acted as ‘gatekeepers’ and caused delays in care seeking,” he says.

“Similarly, we found a spectrum of male accommodation in health facilities during an obstetric emergency—from ignoring or disrespecting men to accommodating them by providing appropriate spaces [such as a waiting room].”

Story says that simply identifying ways in which men can be supportive during an obstetric emergency will not lead to better health outcomes unless health facilities make accommodations that allow men to fulfill their roles.

The study concludes that policies and programs should promote supportive behavior by men during obstetric emergencies while empowering women to make decisions that are best for their own health and the health of their child.

Co-authors include Clare Barrington and Kavita Singh from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina; Corinne Fordham from Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs; Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey from the Institute for Health Care Improvement, Africa Region; and Pierre M. Barker from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.