“What’s the point of going if you just have to wait outside?” is one of the questions men raise when it comes to matters of accompanying their spouses to antenatal clinics.
However, on the other end, healthcare workers and researchers on maternal health insist, “Men will hear the advice together [with their spouses], making them able to collaborate in pregnancy.”
And, “husbands will be less ignorant of advice given by healthcare workers, knowing reduction of activities by their wives is not laziness’, ‘HIV testing involves both of them.”
These are key quotes I borrowed from some studies and another survey done in Tanzania by the African Woman Foundation in a rural district of Tanzania, Magu, which aimed to answer the question: Why don’t men in Tanzania attend antenatal clinics?
Just recently, I was involved in antenatal clinics as a potential father. I drew lessons. But, for the many years I have been interacting with fellow men, especially when it comes to this matter, it dawned on me that a raft of measures need to be taken to enable the men appreciate the value of antenatal clinics and why they should accompany their spouses, fiancées or rather girlfriends.
There has been a lot of finger pointing at men—that they aren’t proactive, that men don’t care, that they don’t know their responsibilities, however, a closer look at this matter reveals that more men could get involved, if key issues are addressed.
Some years back, one thing drew my attention. A nurse told a pregnant woman at a clinic. “Hatukupokei hapa kama bwana wako hayupo. Kama umeiba mume wa mtu shauri yako.”
This means the nurse was determined to attend to this woman until her man showed up. The nurse became even harsh, saying if she was carrying a child for a man who had an extramarital affair, it was even going to be worse.
It must have been a very bad day for the pregnant woman. Anyway, personal matters need to be treated as indeed personal. But for the sake of what we celebrated yesterday—Father’s Day, I am trying to look at what can be done to help more men attend ANCs.
Look at this study from Uganda, titled: Male involvement during pregnancy and childbirth: men’s perceptions, practices and experiences during the care for women who developed childbirth complications in Mulago Hospital, Uganda. It says it out: What exactly has to be done, and this should continue being applied in Tanzania. Not threats and name-calling.
It suggested, clearly that there is pressing need to improve men’s involvement by creating more awareness for fathers, male-targeted antenatal education and support, and changing provider attitudes. Simply that!