Gender equality and childbirth in a health facility: Nigeria and MDG5

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Author(s): Singh K, Bloom S, Haney E, Olorunsaiye C, Brodish P

Year: 2012

Afr J Reprod Health 2012. 16(3):122-128.

This paper examined how addressing gender equality can lead to reductions in maternal mortality in Nigeria through an increased use of facility delivery. Because the majority of maternal complications cannot be predicted and often arise suddenly during labor, delivery and the immediate postpartum period, childbirth in a health facility is key to reducing maternal mortality. This paper used data from the 2008 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey to examine associations of gender measures on the utilization of facility delivery after controlling for sociodemographic factors. Four gender equality measures were studied: household decision making, financial decision making, attitudes towards wife beating, and attitudes regarding a wife’s ability to refuse sex. Results found older, more educated, wealthier, urban, and working women were more likely to have a facility delivery than their counterparts. In addition ethnicity was a significant variable indicating the importance of cultural and regional diversity. Notably, after controlling for the socioeconomic variables, two of the gender equality variables were significant: household decision making and attitudes regarding a wife’s ability to refuse sex. In resource-poor settings such as Nigeria, women with more decision-making autonomy are likely better able to advocate for and access a health facility for childbirth. Thus programs and policies that focus on gender in addition to focusing on education and poverty have the potential to reduce maternal mortality even further.