Socio-cultural perceptions that influence the choice of where to give birth among women in pastoralist communities of Afar region, Ethiopia: A qualitative study using the health belief model

Anna-Julia Van Der Land*, Araya Abrha Medhanyie, Mark Spigt, Carijn Beumer, Mussie Alemayehu, Kibrom Berhanu, Abiy Hiruye Sinke, Ephrem Tekele Lemango, Afework Mulugeta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background: Facility-based delivery care provided by skilled birth attendants is globally considered to be crucial in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity. Although home deliveries are discouraged in Ethiopia due to an associated higher risk of maternal mortality or morbidity, the majority of women in the Afar region continue to deliver at home. Numerous barriers contribute to the low utilization of health facility delivery and skilled birth attendance services in the Afar region.

Objective: Investigate the perceptions and decision-making processes of pastoralist women from Afar regarding home and institutional childbirth using the health belief model.

Methods: A qualitative study was conducted to examine the socio-cultural perceptions that influence the decisionmaking of Afar women who utilize institutional delivery services and those who deliver at home. A total of 13 women aged 17 to 45 who gave birth within the past four years before the data collection period were selected, based on a purposive selection strategy, and took part in in-depth interviews. Atlas.ti 7 software was used for deductive content analysis. Upcoming themes were assigned to pre-determined constructs of the health belief model.

Results: The main barriers to the demand, access and use of facility-based delivery were lack of awareness regarding the risks of childbirth; lack of support from social networks; the strong impact of husbands' opinions; difficulties associated with discussing reproductive health issues; the reliance on traditional birth attendants; lifestyle factors; cultural needs; and distrust in skilled birth attendants and health facilities. The factors that motivated women to use delivery services provided by skilled birth attendants were associated with strong communal and kinship support; antenatal care visits; high awareness of pregnancy-related risks; the influence of previous negative birth experiences; and the belief that facility-based delivery brings faster recovery from birthrelated wounds.

Conclusions: The data give in-depth insights into a range of socio-cultural factors that prevent or facilitate the choice of institutional delivery. Based on our findings, recommendations to increase the uptake of institutional delivery services should focus on community and family involvement, as well as on individual factors. Similarly, effective integration of traditional birth attendants should be encouraged to advise mothers to utilize reproductive, maternal and neonatal health services, and arrange a timely referral of women to emergency obstetric care. Furthermore, making facility-based care more culturally attractive to the needs of pastoralist women should be addressed in future interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-64
Number of pages15
JournalEthiopian Journal of Health Development
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Institutional delivery
  • socio-cultural barriers
  • maternal health
  • childbirth
  • health belief model
  • pastoralist communities
  • Afar
  • Ethiopia
  • CARE


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