“The midwife helped me ... otherwise I could have died”: women’s experience of professional midwifery services in rural Afghanistan - a qualitative study in the provinces Kunar and Laghman
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020, 20, 140. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-020-2818-1
Background Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality ratios, with more than 60% of women having no access to a skilled birth attendant in some areas. The main challenges for childbearing Afghan women are access to skilled birth attendance, emergency obstetric care and reliable contraception. The NGO-based project Advancing Maternal and Newborn Health in Afghanistan has supported education of midwives since 2002, in accordance with the national plan for midwifery education. The aim of this study is to explore women’s experiences of professional midwifery care in four villages in Afghanistan covered by the project, so as to reveal challenges and improve services in rural and conflict-affected areas of the country. Methods An exploratory case-study approach was adopted. Fourteen in-depth interviews and four focus-group discussions were conducted. A total of 39 women participated – 25 who had given birth during the last six months, 11 mothers-in-law and three community midwives in the provinces of Kunar and Laghman. Data generated by the interviews and observations was analysed using thematic content analysis. Findings Many of the women greatly valued the trained midwives’ life-saving experience, skills and care, and the latter were important reasons for choosing to give birth in a clinic. Women further appreciated midwives’ promotion of immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. However, some women experienced rudeness, discrimination and negligence on the part of the midwives. Moreover, relatives’ disapproval, shame and problems with transport and security were important obstacles to women giving birth in the clinics. Conclusions Local recruitment and professional education of midwives as promoted by Afghan authorities and applied in the project seem successful in promoting utilisation and satisfaction with maternal and neonatal health services in rural Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the quality of the services is still lacking, with some women complaining of disrespectful care. There seems to be a need to focus more on communication issues during the education of midwives. An increased focus on in-service training and factors promoting quality care and respectful communication is necessary and should be prioritised.