Is it home delivery or health facility? Community perceptions on place of childbirth in rural Northwest Tanzania using a qualitative approach

Abstract Background In low and middle-income countries, pregnancy and delivery complications may deprive women and their newborns of life or the realization of their full potential. Provision of quality obstetric emergency and childbirth care can reduce maternal and newborn deaths. Underutilization of maternal and childbirth services remains a public health concern in Tanzania. The aim of this study was to explore elements of the local social, cultural, economic, and health systems that influenced the use of health facilities for delivery in a rural setting in Northwest Tanzania. Methods A qualitative approach was used to explore community perceptions of issues related to low utilization of health facilities for childbirth. Between September and December 2017, 11 focus group discussions were conducted with women (n = 33), men (n = 5) and community health workers (CHWs; n = 28); key informant interviews were conducted with traditional birth attendants (TBAs; n = 2). Coding, identification, indexing, charting, and mapping of these interviews was done using NVIVO 12 after manual familiarization of the data. Data saturation was used to determine when no further interviews or discussions were required. Results Four themes emerge; self-perceived obstetric risk, socio-cultural issues, economic concerns and health facility related factors. Health facility delivery was perceived to be crucial for complicated labor. However, the idea that childbirth was a “normal” process and lack of social and cultural acceptability of facility services, made home delivery appealing to many women and their families. In addition, out of pocket payments for suboptimal quality of health care was reported to hinder facility delivery. Conclusion Home delivery persists in rural settings due to economic and social issues, and the cultural meanings attached to childbirth. Accessibility to and affordability of respectful and culturally acceptable childbirth services remain challenging in this setting. Addressing barriers on both the demand and supply side could result in improved maternal and child outcomes during labor and delivery.
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020 May 06;20(1):270