New CMNH study shows that women want to be involved in decisions about the maternity care they receive

News article 15 Feb 2019
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Photo Credit: Lindsay Mgbor, Department for International Development, Malawi, 2012, Courtesy of Flickr

Experiences and perceptions of poor quality of care influences women’s decision on whether to seek care or not, and where to seek it. There are many reports from low-resource settings of disrespect and abuse of women seeking maternity and newborn care services in healthcare facilities. Exploring women’s and healthcare providers’ understanding and perception of these issues are important in developing interventions to deal with the issues. However, looking at the issues from the perspective of both women and healthcare providers has rarely been explored together.

Researchers from the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health (CMNH) set out to explore women’s and healthcare providers’ understanding and perception of disrespect and abuse in a referral hospital in Malawi. They organised group discussions with women who experienced care at the hospital and conducted interviews with healthcare providers who provided the care.

The study, “'We are the ones who should make the decision’ – knowledge and understanding of the rights-based approach to maternity care among women and healthcare providers” has been published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.

It shows that even when some components of respectful maternity care are available, healthcare providers are often not aware of them. It also demonstrates the importance of good attitude and appropriate method of communication to create a valued patient-provider relationship, which is necessary for successful patient management.

Moreover, the study highlights the need for more education of women regarding the stages of pregnancy and labour, the importance of involving women and their families in decision-making, as well as the need to maintain confidentiality. Prompt and timely service delivery are prioritised by women.

Dr Mamuda Aminu, a Senior Clinical Research Associate at CMNH, who supervised the study, explained that:
“Disrespect and abuse of women seeking care for themselves and for their babies are becoming a huge problem in many parts of the world, especially in low-income countries. This has consequences on women’s health-seeking behaviour. If a woman has a terrible experience, she will tell her close associates, and in this age of social media, you never know where that ends. Thus, it is important that these issues are tackled as quickly as possible to maintain and improve on the progress many low-income countries we are making today in increasing antenatal attendance and facility births. At CMNH, we are doing our part, as researchers, to gather the necessary evidence to inform interventions to reduce these problems and help healthcare providers improve the quality of services they provide to women and babies.”

Dr Aminu has written a blog for BMC about this paper, titled Respectful maternity care – the way forward