Background: Worldwide urbanization has become a crucial issue in recent years. Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most densely-populated countries in the world, has been facing rapid urbanization. In urban areas, maternal indicators are generally worse in the slums than in the urban non-slum areas. The Manoshi program at BRAC, a non governmental organization, works to improve maternal, newborn, and child health in the urban slums of Bangladesh. This paper describes maternal related beliefs and practices in the urban slums of Dhaka and provides baseline information for the Manoshi program.
Methods: This is a descriptive study where data were collected using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The respondents for the quantitative methods, through a baseline survey using a probability sample, were mothers with infants (n = 672) living in the Manoshi program areas. Apart from this, as part of a formative research, thirty six in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted during the same period from two of the above Manoshi program areas among currently pregnant women who had also previously given births (n = 18); and recently delivered women (n = 18).
Results: The baseline survey revealed that one quarter of the recently delivered women received at least four antenatal care visits and 24 percent women received at least one postnatal care visit. Eighty-five percent of deliveries took place at home and 58 percent of the deliveries were assisted by untrained traditional birth attendants. The women mostly relied on their landladies for information and support. Members of the slum community mainly used cheap, easily accessible and available informal sectors for seeking care. Cultural beliefs and practices also reinforced this behavior, including home delivery without skilled assistance.
Conclusions: Behavioral change messages are needed to increase the numbers of antenatal and postnatal care visits, improve birth preparedness, and encourage skilled attendance at delivery. Programs in the urban slum areas should also consider interventions to improve social support for key influential persons in the community, particularly landladies who serve as advisors and decision-makers.