Health seeking behaviour of childless women in Bangladesh: an ethnographic exploration for the special issue on: loss in child bearing

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Nov;71(10):1780-7. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.026. Epub 2010 Aug 5.


This paper deals with the health seeking behaviour of childless rural poor and urban middle class women in Bangladesh. Data for this study were collected from a northern district of Bangladesh named Mymensing, using various qualitative methods including life histories, in-depth interviews, and key-informant interviews The study shows that social class and the geographical location of the childless women determine their health seeking behaviour. Local healers in the informal sector were found to be the most popular health service option among the rural childless women. The factors for utilising them included low costs, the gender of the provider (with same-sex providers being preferred), having a shared explanatory model with the healers, and easy availability. Unlike their rural counterparts, urban childless women predominantly seek expensive Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) treatment which is available only in the formal sector, in private services. However, despite their affiliation with modern treatment, urban childless women still believe, like their rural counterparts, that the remedy for childlessness ultimately depends on God. As a result, in addition to biomedical treatment, many return to or simultaneously pursue various traditional, spiritual or folk treatments. It was found in this study that in Bangladesh, where fertility control is the main focus of health policy, childless women are excluded from mainstream discussions on women's health. Consequently the childless women have to suffer in various ways as a result of their health seeking behaviour.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bangladesh
  • Choice Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility / psychology*
  • Infertility / therapy
  • Medicine, Traditional / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poverty
  • Qualitative Research
  • Reproductive Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Class*
  • Spiritual Therapies / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Population*
  • Young Adult