Introduction: While many studies have documented a number of socio-cultural barriers to male involvement in maternal health, in The Gambia very little information is known about the social and cultural practices that characterized male involvement in maternal health. This study aims to explore some of the underlying social and cultural factors affecting husbands' involvement in maternal health issues pertaining to pregnancy and delivery in rural Gambia.
Methods: Five focus group discussions and six in-depth interviews were conducted among rural men and traditional birth attendants in five areas of rural Gambia. The discussion was directed to the roles of male partners in pregnancy and delivery and the difficulties they face regarding taking care of their wives. The data resulting from the discussion was audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically.
Results: In general, rural Gambian men and traditional birth attendants (TBAs) reported that husbands' involvement in maternal health is highly desirable, but is influenced by many factors, such as the traditional conceptualization associated with pregnancy and delivery as women's domain. In addition, many men do not believe that pregnancy chores warrant their efforts compared to other competing social responsibilities. This issue may be more complicated in polygamous marriages where there is rivalry among co-wives and in neighborhoods where men who help with house chores may be subjected to mockery.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that husbands' involvement in maternal health in The Gambia is influenced by the prevailing social and cultural practices of gender role and norms, which are also at the root of maternal health problems.
Keywords: Maternal health; The Gambia; husbands; male involvement; qualitative research.