Men need to join the battle against maternal mortality too

Maternal health has declined since the 1990s, but still, pregnant women are needless victims of an entirely preventable public health issue. The majority of maternal mortality stems from birth complications and the immediate postpartum period, and it is crucial that pregnant women receive the support they need in order to survive. Maternal mortality is addressed with strong health care systems, but a neglected factor in the battle against mortality is male involvement. 

Male involvement in decreasing maternal mortality is surprisingly important, especially in African countries where males exert a tremendous amount of control over their wives and girlfriends. Cultural myths and misperceptions about pregnancy are reinforced by men who have little to no sexual education whatsoever, worsening the mortality trend. A predominant belief is that sexual health is a women’s only domain, and men are generally not engaged to become responsible sexual partners and caretakers. In Zulu culture, it used to be that men were prohibited from seeing their partners and newborns for three months after birth. People believed that men wouldn’t be as masculine if they became involved in the care of either mother or child after birth. Excluding men from the birth process is damaging for mother and child, and results in more needless deaths. 

There are a variety of ways in which men can become involved in maternal health; they can provide birth control, educate themselves on danger signs of pregnancy, arrange for medical care during delivery, and be responsible partners and fathers for women and their newborns. If men are more educated and involved in the process, women will feel more comfortable seeking out help. A 2010 study among Zambian mothers found that women were less likely to seek out family planning services if their husbands were present at the time the services were offered. Women need emotional support and attentive partners during pregnancy – when asked her opinion on involving men in the pregnancy and birth process, one woman said, “Men will learn how to treat us. They will treat us like ladies.”

Although maternal health greatly depends on the health sector, male involvement in decreasing maternal mortality is crucial. Boyfriends and husbands should emotionally support their partners at this time and educate themselves on women’s health, because male attitudes have an enormous impact on women’s wellbeing in African societies. Including men in maternal care will improve sexual health and pregnancy outcomes. Involving men in their partner’s maternity care is important because men influence the health outcomes of women and newborns.

Men_Maternal_Health

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