Background: Despite the efforts to promote male involvement in maternal and child health, studies in low and middle income countries have reported that male participation is still low. While factors that hinder male partners from participating in maternal and child healthcare are well documented, there is dearth of studies on local perceptions about male involvement in pregnancy and delivery care. The main objective of this study was to explore local perceptions about male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth in Tanzania.
Methods: Semi-structured individual interviews were conducted with key respondents and a thematic approach was used to analyse data.
Results: The findings revealed that women preferred to be accompanied by their partners to the clinics, especially on the first antenatal care visit. Men did not wish to be more actively involved in antenatal care and delivery. Respondents perceived men as being breadwinners and their main role in pregnancy and child birth was to support their partners financially. The key factors which hindered male participation were traditional gender roles at home, fear of HIV testing and unfavourable environment in health facilities.
Conclusion: This study concludes that traditional gender roles and health facility environment presented barriers to male involvement. District health managers should strengthen efforts to improve gender relations, promote men's understanding of the familial and social roles in reproductive health issues as well as provide male friendly services. However, these efforts need to be supported by women and the society as a whole.
Keywords: Male involvement; Maternal and child health; Pregnancy and childbirth; Tanzania.