A qualitative study to explore the attitudes of women and obstetricians towards caesarean delivery in rural Bangladesh Begum, Tahmina; Ellis, Cathryn; Sarker, Malabika; Rostoker, Jean-Francois; Rahman, Aminur; Anwar, Iqbal; Reichenbach, Laura
Background: Caesarean section is a lifesaving surgical intervention for women and their newborns, though overutilization is a public health concern. The caesarean rate in Bangladesh is approximately 23% overall, and in private facilities it is over 70%. It is essential to know both the supply side (obstetricians) and demand side (parturient women) views on caesarean birth in order to formulate specific interventions to address the escalating rate of caesareans. Methods: This qualitative study took place in Matlab, a rural sub-district in Bangladesh. We interviewed women attending their 3rd antenatal visit, those with recent caesareans, and obstetricians from both public and private health facilities. In total there were twenty in-depth interviews and four focus group discussions. Study participants were asked about their preferences on birthing mode and knowledge of the caesarean section process. Thematic data analysis was done following a deductive approach. Results: Women from this rural community had a strong preference for normal vaginal birth. However, they were willing to accept the attending health care provider’s decision for caesarean birth. Antenatal care sessions did not provide information on the medical indications for caesarean section. Furthermore, some women had the misconception that episiotomy itself is a ‘small caesarean.’ Primary health care providers and clinic agents (brokers) had a strong influence on women’s decision to choose a health facility for giving birth. However, obstetricians, having a preference for caesarean section, were receiving more patients from these brokers which may be an important reason for the high rate of clinically non-indicated caesareans at private hospitals in Bangladesh. Improper labour monitoring and inadequate staffing at health facilities were additional influences on the preference for caesarean section. However, critical knowledge gaps were also observed among study obstetricians, particularly with regards to the indications for and timing of elective caesarean sections. Conclusion: There is a need to educate women about the advantages and disadvantages of different birthing modes to ensure their active participation in the decision making process. Strong policy regulations are needed to ensure legitimate decision making by obstetricians regarding mode of birthing.
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