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A qualitative study of conceptions and attitudes regarding maternal mortality among traditional birth attendants in rural Guatemala
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH). (International Maternal and Reproductive Health)
Department of Social Anthropology, Lund University, Sweden.
Faculty of Medicine, Lund University, Sweden.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Women's and Children's Health, International Maternal and Child Health (IMCH). (International Maternal and Reproductive Health)
2004 (English)In: British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, ISSN 0306-5456, Vol. 111, no 12, 1372-1377 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

OBJECTIVE: To explore conceptions of obstetric emergency care among traditional birth attendants in rural Guatemala, elucidating social and cultural factors. STUDY: design Qualitative in-depth interview study. SETTING: Rural Guatemala. SAMPLE: Thirteen traditional birth attendants from 11 villages around San Miguel Ixtahuacán, Guatemala. METHOD: Interviews with semi-structured, thematic, open-ended questions. Interview topics were: traditional birth attendants' experiences and conceptions as to the causes of complications, attitudes towards hospital care and referral of obstetric complications. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Conceptions of obstetric complications, hospital referrals and maternal mortality among traditional birth attendants. RESULTS: Pregnant women rather than traditional birth attendants appear to make the decision on how to handle a complication, based on moralistically and fatalistically influenced thoughts about the nature of complications, in combination with a fear of caesarean section, maltreatment and discrimination at a hospital level. There is a discrepancy between what traditional birth attendants consider appropriate in cases of complications, and the actions they implement to handle them. CONCLUSION: Parameters in the referral system, such as logistics and socio-economic factors, are sometimes subordinated to cultural values by the target group. To have an impact on maternal mortality, bilateral culture-sensitive education should be included in maternal health programs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2004. Vol. 111, no 12, 1372-1377 p.
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-112474DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2004.00270.xPubMedID: 15663121OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-112474DiVA: diva2:286134
Available from: 2010-01-13 Created: 2010-01-13 Last updated: 2010-04-21Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Pre-hospital Barriers to Emergency Obstetric Care: Studies of Maternal Mortality and Near-miss in Bolivia and Guatemala
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Pre-hospital Barriers to Emergency Obstetric Care: Studies of Maternal Mortality and Near-miss in Bolivia and Guatemala
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[es]
Barreras pre-hospitalarias para la atención obstétrica de emergencia : Estudios de mortalidad materna y morbilidad obstétrica severa en Bolivia y Guatemala
Abstract [en]

Maternal mortality is a global health concern but inequalities in utilization of maternal health care are not clearly understood. Severe morbidity (near-miss) is receiving increased attention due to methodological difficulties in maternal mortality studies.

The present thesis seeks to increase understanding of factors that impede utilization of emergency obstetric care (EmOC) in Bolivia and Guatemala. Studies I and IV employed qualitative interviews to explore the role of traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and the care-seeking behaviour of women who arrived at hospital with a near-miss complication. Studies II–III documented maternal mortality and near-miss morbidity at the hospital level and investigated the influence of socio-demographic factors and antenatal care (ANC) on near-miss upon arrival.

The studies identified unfamiliarity with EmOC among TBAs and a lack of collaboration with formal care providers. A perception of being dissociated from the health care system and a mistrust of health care providers was common among near-miss women from disadvantaged social backgrounds. In the Bolivian setting, 187 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 50 cases of near-miss per 1000 were recorded. Causes of near-miss differed from those of maternal deaths. Most women with near-miss arrived at hospital in critical condition: severe preeclampsia, complications after childbirth at home and abortions were mostly encountered among them. Lack of ANC, low education, and rural residence were interactively associated with near-miss. ANC reduced socio-demographic differentials for near-miss.

Complementing maternal mortality reviews with data on near-miss morbidity increases the understanding of priority needs and quality of maternal health care. Additionally, focusing on near-miss upon arrival was found useful in exploring pre-hospital barriers to EmOC. The findings identified subgroups of women who seemed especially vulnerable to pre-hospital barriers. They also underscored the need for initiatives to reduce the effect of social marginalization and to acknowledge the influential role of formal and informal care providers on the utilization of EmOC.

Abstract [es]

La mortalidad materna es un tema de inquietud global, sin embargo la comprensión de las desigualdades en la utilización de los servicios de salud materna es limitada. La morbilidad obstétrica severa (near-miss) está recibiendo creciente atención, producto de problemas metodológicos en los estudios de mortalidad materna.

El objetivo de la presente tesis es aumentar la comprensión de factores que impiden la utilización de la atención obstétrica de emergencia en Bolivia y Guatemala. Los estudios I y IV usaron metodologías cualitativas en un esfuerzo por explorar el rol de las parteras tradicionales y las estrategias de las mujeres que arriban a los hospitales con una morbilidad obstétrica severa. Los estudios II–III documentaron la mortalidad materna y la morbilidad obstétrica severa en el marco hospitalario e investigaron el impacto de los factores socio-demográficos y el control prenatal en la llegada a los establecimientos de salud con complicaciones severas.

Los estudios identificaron la falta de familiaridad con atención obstétrica de emergencia entre las parteras tradicionales y la falta de cooperación con los profesionales de salud formales. La sensación de estar distanciadas del sistema de salud y la desconfianza hacia los profesionales de la salud eran aspectos comunes entre las mujeres de sectores marginales con experiencias de complicaciones severas. En el contexto boliviano, 187 muertes maternas por cada 100,000 nacidos vivos y 50 casos de morbilidad obstétrica severa por cada 1000 fueron registradas. Las causas de la morbilidad obstétrica severa y las muertes maternas se distinguieron. La major parte de las mujeres con morbilidad obstétrica severa llegaron al hospital en condiciones críticas: preeclampsia severa, complicaciones después de partos domiciliarios y abortos eran causas más frecuentes en esta categoría. Combinaciones del bajo nivel de educación con la falta de controles prenatales o la residencia en zonas rurales fueron asociadas con la morbilidad obstétrica severa. El control prenatal redujo diferencias socio-demográficas en lo concerniente a la morbilidad obstétrica severa.

La complementación de estudios de mortalidad materna con datos sobre morbilidad obstétrica severa aumenta la comprensión de las prioridades y de la calidad en la atención de la salud materna. Además, centrándose en la morbilidad obstétrica severa a la llegada al establicimiento de salud, ha sido útil para investigar las barreras pre-hospitalarias en relación a la atención de emergencia obstétrica. Los resultados permiten identificar categorías específicas de mujeres que parecen ser especialmente vulnerables a las barreras pre-hospitalarias. Los resultados, también subrayan la necesidad de iniciativas que reduzcan los efectos de la marginalización social, y que reconozcan el importante rol que tanto el personal de salud formal como informal cumplen en la utilización de los servicios de atención obstétrica de emergencia.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 74 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 515
pre-hospital barriers, maternal mortality, near-miss, traditional birth attendants, social marginalization, Bolivia, Guatemala, barreras pre-hospitalarias, mortalidad materna, morbilidad obstétrica severa, parteras tradicionales, marginalización social, Bolivia, Guatemala
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Research subject
International Health
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-112481 (URN)978-91-554-7709-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-03-12, Auditorium Minus, Museum Gustavianum, Akademigatan 3, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
Available from: 2010-02-19 Created: 2010-01-13 Last updated: 2010-02-19Bibliographically approved

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