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Background: Pakistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Community Midwives (CMWs) were introduced in 2006 as a new cadre of birth attendants who would bring midwifery services to rural areas by being based in designated communities. The CMWs face many obstacles and retaining them in practice is a challenge. This study aimed to examine whether there was a relationship between family support and CMWs retention in midwifery practice. We hoped to learn about influences on retention that might improve the Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) programme.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey conducted in five districts of rural Sindh, a province in Pakistan. A list of all CMWs who graduated between 2007 and 2012 was obtained from the MNCH programme Sindh. The CMWs were tracked by MCHIP (Maternal Child Health Integrated Program) clinical supervisors posted in the respective districts to gather information about families’ support of CMWs.

Findings: Of the 148 CMWs in the MNCH list, 112 (76%) were tracked. Of 112, 44 (39%) CMWs were in active practice while 69 (61%) had completed their training but had not started a practice. Of the 44 practising CMWs, 82% had family members who worked in a health-related field or previously were traditional birth attendants (TBAs). Only 18% of those who established a practice had a family without this profile.

Conclusion: These preliminary findings indicate a strong relationship between family engagement in health care work and the capacity of CMWs to establish a midwifery practice. A further comparative analysis of practising and non-practising CMWs is warranted.