Background: Male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth has been shown to improve maternal and child health. Many countries have used different strategies to promote participation of men in antenatal care services. While many strategies have been employed to promote male participation in antenatal care, few have been evaluated to provide much-needed lessons to support wider adoption.
Objective: This study aimed at describing strategies that were used by health providers and the community to promote male participation in antenatal care services and challenges associated with the implementation of these interventions in Southern Tanzania.
Methods: We used qualitative data and analytical methods to answer the research questions. The study relied on semi-structured interviews with health providers, men and women, village and community leaders and traditional birth attendants. Data were analysed using a thematic approach.
Results: The findings of this study revealed that different strategies were employed by health providers and the community in promoting participation of men in antenatal care services. These strategies included: health providers denying services to women attending antenatal care without their partners, fast-tracking service to men attending antenatal care with their partners, and providing education and community sensitisation. The implementation of these strategies was reported to have both positive and unintended consequences.
Conclusions: This study concludes that despite the importance of male involvement in pregnancy and childbirth-related services, the use and promotion of the male escort policy should not inadvertently affect access to antenatal care services by pregnant women. In addition, programmes aiming for men's involvement should be implemented in ways that respect, promote and facilitate women's choices and autonomy and ensure their safety. Furthermore, there is a need for sensitisation of health providers and policymakers on what works best for involving men in pregnancy and childbirth.
Keywords: Male involvement strategies; Tanzania; antenatal care; pregnancy and childbirth.