Views on Involving a Social Support Person During Labor in Zambian Maternities


  • Margaret C. Maimbolwa rnm, dne, bsc,

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Margaret Maimbolwa is a student at the Division of International Health (IHCAR), Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Instituet (KI), Stockholm, Sweden. Currently, she is conducting research on issues related to social support to childbearing women in hospital and community settings in Zambia. She holds a position as Head of School of Nursing in Lusaka, Zambia and is the secretary of Africa Midwifery Research Network (AMRN).

  • Nsama Sikazwe md, frcog,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Nsama Sikazwe, a lecturer and researcher at the School of Medicine, University of Zambia, was the former coordinator of the WHO and SAREC collaborative reproductive health research projects in Zambia.

  • Bawa Yamba phd,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Christian Bawa Yamba is an Anthropologist and Swedish Research Fellow at the Nordic African Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, where he coordinates and conducts research on the dilemmas of HIV/AIDS prevention and AIDS orphans in Africa.

  • Vinod Diwan md, phd,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Vinod Diwan is a professor at IHCAR, Karolinska Instituet and professor at the Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden. His research focuses on international health.

  • Anna-Berit Ransjö-Arvidson rnmtd, phd

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Anna-Berit Ransjö-Arvidson is a researcher at IHCAR, KI and senior lecturer and international coordinator at the Division of Reproductive and Perinatal Health, Department of Women and Child Health, Karolinska Instituet. Her research focuses on reproductive and perinatal health care routines at hospital and community levels in Sweden, Zambia, Swaziland, and Russia.

IHCAR, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 76, Stockholm, Sweden.


Because social support persons are excluded from modern obstetric care in Zambia, the aim of this study was to explore the views of 84 mothers and 40 health staff about allowing women to be attended by a supportive companion during labor in Zambian urban and rural maternities. Most of the mothers wanted a companion present to provide emotional and practical support. Those who were opposed to the idea had nobody to ask to be with them, or they had relatives who would interfere with the care provided.

All health staff cited hospital policy as the principal reason for prohibiting social support persons from staying with laboring women. They also said that the health staff's role is to care for laboring women, and they worried that social support persons could interfere with their work by giving the laboring women traditional medicine. However, most health staff also said that a social support person could help the laboring women and give her a sense of security.

The study concludes that Zambian maternity staff should be exposed to new research findings about the benefits of social support during childbirth and that this practice should be encouraged in Zambia. Ultimately, it should be the laboring woman who decides whether she wants to bring a social support person to the labor ward.