During data analysis, a total of four main themes were identified relating to the experiences and perceptions of husbands who support their partners during pregnancy, labour and delivery. The identified themes were; demonstrating care, love and affection, men’s adoption with modern life style, observing women’s right and meeting socioeconomic difficulties during support. These themes together with corresponding categories are presented in Table 1 below.
Table 1; Themes and corresponding categories describing men’s experiences, perceptions and challenges of partner support during pregnancy labour and delivery
Partner’s expectations of support
Demonstrating care, love and affection
Men’s responsibilities in support and care during pregnancy, labour and delivery.
Men’s preparations before delivery
Men’s adoption with modern life style
Community’s perspective on men’s support.
Men’s expectations over support provided to partners.
Observing women’s right
Financial instabilities during the process of care provided by men.
Constraints with transport for reaching the health care centres.
Health care setting and the attitude of health care providers.
Meeting social economic difficulties
Demonstrating care, love and affection
Participants interviewed in this study had different views about support they provide to their partners/wives during pregnancy, labour and delivery. They reported that support they provided to their partners was geared at ensuring the physical wellbeing of both mother and the coming baby.
“… I make sure that she (the wife) gets proper diet during the daytime and during the night. All what I am doing is for the mother and for the coming baby…” (Partner, 2)
Other participants shared that the support provided to their wives was appealing to what the couple sworn on the wedding day. It is a commitment which the two agreed as they married.
“…as you swear during wedding you swear to be with your wife in happiness and problems because that was the agreement. So it is because of the agreement I made that I will be there to give her support…” (Partner, 5)
Participants also thought that the support they provide has bases in their religious beliefs that they have to abide to in their denominations. Others thought of the relationship they have with their wives as the main reason to provide support:
“… I see myself as the one who was involved to make her in this condition and if she succeeds it will be a gift to me, that is why I see it is important that we are together” (Partner, 4)
Some participants were of the view that the provision of support to their partners during pregnancy or delivery was a matter of fulfilling’s women rights. Other participants insisted that caring their partners during pregnancy or delivery as more than women’s right but rather a human right:
“… I believe I have the right to do so (to support my wife), it is all about women and their rights… I don’t feel at peace when I leave her alone. Because she knows there is somebody behind her and as I understand (we are one)” (Partner, 5)
Adopting modern lifestyle
Support provided by men was perceived by some participants as a way of conforming to a new life style as it was uncommon for husbands to accompany their wives during childbirth. It was however reported that for a long time men have been providing support to their partners, although not as it is now where provision of support to their partners is perceived as modern ways of life and moving with current era and increased levels of education among men:
“…In the past men were supporting their wives partially, but because of development and education, people have identified the benefits of supporting their partners compared to previously when most men had low education...” (Partner, 3)
Other participants had different views and argued that supporting partners during childbirth is not a matter of new fashion, but rather is an obligation as directed by religious teachings and according to the bible and that men cannot escape these responsibilities:
“… No! It is not a fashion, to me I think it is normal, because even the writings in the word of God has insisted this, thus when you are two you need to assist each other as it is written in the Bible,…it is not good to leave your wife with problems without assisting…” (Partner, 9)
Despite taking the role of a man or a husband in the family, participants reported specific responsibilities that need to be carried by the men when providing support to their wives during childbirth. This is the time when the usual duties of the woman at home are taken by her husband. Participants reported to practice what they were taught during antenatal care visits and therefore their support is not confined to reproductive health but it is beyond domestic chores:
“… I am just supporting her when I have time in some of the days, to find food and helping home activities so that she can be kept free to make the unborn healthy. I took all the responsibilities at home including; washing, fetching water cleaning and mopping...” (Partner, 8)
It was noted that some men were so keen to follow instructions given during antenatal visits especially on the issues to birth preparedness and that they were responsible for preparing all necessary requirements as needed, in response to the concept of individual birth preparedness, which is advocated during the routine clinic teaching. According to the participants, they were implementing what they gained from the sessions attended during the antenatal visits:
“... I remember in the last visit we were told to be prepared for delivery, to have a safe place for delivery that she must have enough clothes, basin to go with; what to do about children at home I was not told, I just used experience. Her younger sister remained back at home to look after the young children. About money according to the jobs we are doing we don’t earn much so I just prepared with a little money for basic needs …” (Partner, 2)
Observing women’s rights
Husbands’ accounts indicated that men commonly supported their wives in favour of their rights. Community advocacy on women rights and encouraging men to observe these rights boosted the practice. Communities now perceive the support of men to their wives during childbirth as a normal event and need to be promoted among men. It was also learned that men are ready to accompany a woman in labour to the hospital if her husband is not around:
“… they usually say that this man loves his wife, if men could be like this man, our marriages could be better….” (Partner, 3)
“… I think they see it normal, because as I informed about five people about what I was going to do … they took it as normal even” (Partner, 4)
However, not all members of the community perceive that men have the role of supporting their wives during childbirth:
“… it is not easy to know how others are thinking, there are others who are happy with what I am doing, and there are others wondering what happened to me. I see this as a normal thing” (Partner, 4)
“Every person has his own perspective; others may ignore or may perceive it as a normal issue according to one’s own culture …” (Partner, 8)
It was also reported that the support provided by men was to ensure that the woman gets quick recovery so she can quickly get another pregnancy and thus increase number of children in the family. Others thought that the support they provide helps to prevent women from getting psychological problems and thus health of the unborn baby:
“… Caring makes the woman to have no depression, because if you are not close to her she may have depression, and then you will ask why me, sometimes she may be bothered and this distraction is like being filled up with a certain poison, and this may affect the unborn baby. So it is all about making the future of the baby who will be born” (Partner, 8)
Meeting social economic difficulties
Participants reported that while making efforts to support their wives, they were confronted by some barriers that prohibited them from proving full support to their partners. These barriers included; financial instabilities, transport to the healthcare facility, attitude of the healthcare staff and ward environment. It was learned from this study that men had different occupations that make them have different levels of income and opportunity to accompany their partners to the healthcare facility. Participants were also concerned about the time they are needed to support their partner which compete with the time for generating income for their families. They reported that time spent in the caring of the partner affected the daily flow of money in their businesses. This was mentioned as the most constrain to full support their wives during pregnancy or delivery. Most participants in this study were either small scale businessmen or labourers. Some participants were concerned about the long time spent during ANC services or during delivery process. Others reported that time for ANC clinic for example coincided with open market, affecting their income generation:
“ … I usually have many activities those days that I am required to accompany my wife to the clinic. It is the market day however; I have go to the clinic with my wife. But then, sales and income from the market decreased …” (Partner, 1)
Other participants reported that poor infrastructure increases time to arrive at the healthcare facility and thus not safe:
“… Infrastructure is not friendly; I have changed the route so that I can reach here (healthcare facility). Roads are not good at all you will need a driver who is very professional with the right attitude…” (Partner, 2)
Other participants reported that health workers were not welcoming, something that discouraged husbands from accompanying their wives. Husbands were prohibited to get inside the ward especially in the labour ward, denying their participation in the care of their wives in this process of labour and delivery. Additionally, health workers did not inform husbands of what was going on, leaving husband with the feelings of being abandoned and neglected. Participants however demonstrated desire to assist their wives during delivery process, however, such opportunity was not provided:
“… I would like to assist my wife when struggling especially during pushing by holding her and encouraging her to push. She used to tell me that they use a lot of energy at this point and sometimes help can be available and sometimes there may be no help” (Partner, 2)
“I would like to witness the delivery of my baby, but because there is no possibility. Usually when you get here, they ask you to go out” (Partner, 9)
It was reported by participants that they were not informed about what was going on with their wives when in the labour ward, they are just left alone waiting outside with lots of tension. They were concerned with the longer stay without getting feedback from health workers, for them this was dissatisfying and disappointing:
“… I was received by the gate keeper, and told to go when my wife was in the ward. On arrival in the ward my wife was handed to a nurse on duty and I was told to go home without any more information. I was not satisfied as I expected to be asked to wait and be informed of the progress of my wife. My wife was not allowed to stay even with the phone.” (Partner, 6)