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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 1/2018

Male involvement in maternal health: perspectives of opinion leaders

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth > Ausgabe 1/2018
Raymond A. Aborigo, Daniel D. Reidpath, Abraham R. Oduro, Pascale Allotey
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12884-017-1641-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Twenty years after acknowledging the importance of joint responsibilities and male participation in maternal health programs, most health care systems in low income countries continue to face challenges in involving men. We explored the reasons for men’s resistance to the adoption of a more proactive role in pregnancy care and their enduring influence in the decision making process during emergencies.


Ten focus group discussions were held with opinion leaders (chiefs, elders, assemblymen, leaders of women groups) and 16 in-depth interviews were conducted with healthcare workers (District Directors of Health, Medical Assistants in-charge of health centres, and district Public Health Nurses and Midwives). The interviews and discussions were audio recorded, transcribed into English and imported into NVivo 10 for content analysis.


As heads of the family, men control resources, consult soothsayers to determine the health seeking or treatment for pregnant women, and serve as the final authority on where and when pregnant women should seek medical care. Beyond that, they have no expectation of any further role during antenatal care and therefore find it unnecessary to attend clinics with their partners. There were conflicting views about whether men needed to provide any extra support to their pregnant partners within the home. Health workers generally agreed that men provided little or no support to their partners. Although health workers had facilitated the formation of father support groups, there was little evidence of any impact on antenatal support.


In patriarchal settings, the role of men can be complex and social and cultural traditions may conflict with public health recommendations. Initiatives to promote male involvement should focus on young men and use chiefs and opinion leaders as advocates to re-orient men towards more proactive involvement in ensuring the health of their partners.
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