Men's influences on women's reproductive health: medical anthropological perspectives

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Oct;59(7):1379-95. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.11.035.


Reproductive health has emerged as an organizational framework that incorporates men into maternal and child health (MCH) programs. For several decades, medical anthropologists have conducted reproductive health research that explores male partners' effects on women's health and the health of children. This article summarizes exemplary research in this area, showing how ethnographic studies by medical anthropologists contribute new insights to the growing public health and demographic literature on men and reproductive health. The first half of the article begins by exploring reproductive rights, examining the concept from an anthropological perspective. As part of this discussion, the question of equality versus equity is addressed, introducing anthropological perspectives on ways to incorporate men fairly into reproductive health programs and policies. The second half of the article then turns to a number of salient examples of men's relevance in the areas of contraception, abortion, pregnancy and childbirth, infertility, and fetal harm. Medical anthropological research--as well as prominent gaps in that research--is highlighted. The article concludes with thoughts on future areas of anthropological research that may improve understandings of men's influences on women's reproductive health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reproduction*
  • Sociology, Medical*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Women's Health*