“The co-authors of pregnancy”: leveraging men's sense of responsibility and other factors for male involvement in antenatal services in Kinshasa, DRC
Background: Despite efforts to improve male involvement (MI), few male partners typically attend antenatal care (ANC). MI in ANC and interventions to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission have been demonstrated to be beneficial for the HIV-positive mother and her child. This study aimed to explore factors influencing partner attendance and highlight interventions with potential to improve MI within a Congolese context.
Methods: This was an exploratory, qualitative study conducted in two urban and two semi-urban catchment areas of Kinshasa, DRC in June–September 2016. Two women-only and two men-only focus group discussions (FGDs) were held; participants were recruited from ANC clinics and surrounding communities. Key informants purposively selected from health facility leadership and central government were also interviewed. Guide topics included MI barriers and facilitators, experiences with couples’ ANC attendance and perceptions of MI interventions and how to improve them. Data from FGDs and interviews were analyzed to determine three interventions that best addressed the identified MI facilitators and barriers. These interventions were explored further through dialogues held with representatives from community organizations.
Results: This study included 17 female and 18 male FGD participants, 3 key informants and 21 community dialogue participants. Receipt of clinic staff advice was the most commonly-reported factor facilitating male attendance. No time off work was the most commonly-reported barrier. Only men identified responsibility, referring to themselves as “authors of the pregnancy,” and wanting to be tested for HIV as facilitators. The most promising interventions perceived by FGD and interview participants were male partner invitation letters, couple- and male-friendly improvements to ANC, and expert peer-to-peer outreach. Community dialogue participants provided further detail on these approaches, such as invitation letter content and counseling messages targeting men attending ANC.
Conclusions: Common themes regarding male involvement in ANC that emerged from this study included men’s need to understand how the pregnancy is progressing and how best to care for their female partners and unborn children, and ANC settings that were misaligned to the needs of men and couples. Interventions at the individual, facility and community levels were discussed that could result in improvements to male attendance at pregnancy-related services.