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Complications during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period present a significant and complex public health problem in low income countries such as Ethiopia. One strategy endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to improve maternal and child health outcomes is to encourage male partner involvement in pregnancy care. This research aimed to explore the relationships between 1) male attendance at antenatal care and 2) socio-economic and women’s empowerment factors and adherence to focused antenatal care guidelines among women receiving care in Ethiopia.
Secondary analysis of 2011 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data. A sub-sample of couples with a child aged 0–2 years old, for whom women attended at least one antenatal care (ANC) appointment was selected. Predictor variables on socio-economic position, demographic and women’s empowerment factors, and male attendance at antenatal care were identified. Six outcome variables were constructed to indicate whether or not women: commenced ANC in the first trimester, attended at least four ANC appointments, received a urine test, received a blood test, were counselled on potential complications during pregnancy and met these focused antenatal care guidelines. Binary logistic regression was performed to estimate the relationship between the predictor and outcome variables.
After controlling for other factors, women whose partners attended ANC were significantly more likely to receive urine and blood tests and be counselled about pregnancy complications compared to women who attended alone. Male attendance was not associated with women commencing care in the first trimester or attending at least four appointments. Although more women whose male partners had attended appointments received all recommended components of ANC than those who attended alone, this association was not significant.
The results revealed some benefits and did not detect harms from including male partners in focused antenatal care. Including men may require changes to maternal healthcare systems and training of healthcare workers, to adopt ‘father inclusive’ practices. Given the limited research in this area, large population studies including the DHS routinely carried out in Ethiopia could enhance knowledge by including more detailed indicators of male involvement in pregnancy, maternal and child healthcare and early child development.