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We aim to examine the gendered contexts of poor perinatal survival in the remote mountain villages of Nepal. The study setting comprised two remote mountain villages from a mid-western mountain district of Nepal that ranks lowest on the Human Development Index (0.304), and is reported as having the lowest child survival rates in the country.
The findings are taken from a larger study of perinatal survival in remote mountain villages of Nepal, conducted through a qualitative methodological approach within a framework of social constructionist and critical theoretical perspectives. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 42 women and their families, plus a range of healthcare providers (nurses/auxiliary nurses, female health volunteers, support staff, Auxiliary Health Worker and a traditional healer) and other stakeholders from February to June, 2015. Data were analysed with a comprehensive coding process utilising the thematic analysis technique.
The social construction of gender is one of the key factors influencing poor perinatal survival in the villages in this study. The key emerging themes from the qualitative data are: (1) Gendered social construct and vulnerability for poor perinatal survival: child marriages, son preference and repeated child bearing; (2) Pregnancy and childbirth in intra-familial dynamics of relationships and power; and (3) Perception of birth as a polluted event: birth in Gotha (cowshed) and giving birth alone.
Motherhood among women of a low social position is central to women and their babies experiencing vulnerabilities related to perinatal survival in the mountain villages. Gendered constructions along the continuum from pre-pregnancy to postnatal (girl settlement, a daughter-in-law, ritual pollution about mother and child) create challenges to ensuring perinatal survival in these villages. It is imperative that policies and programmes consider such a context to develop effective working strategies for sustained reduction of future perinatal deaths.