Introduction: Greater male support during pregnancy and in the postpartum period may improve health outcomes for mothers and children. To develop effective strategies to engage men, we need to first understand the ways that men are currently engaged and the barriers to their greater involvement.
Methods: We conducted in-depth interviews in isiZulu with 30 HIV-positive women and 16 HIV-negative women who received prenatal care from a public clinic in Durban, South Africa. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, translated, and coded for analysis.
Results: Although less than a quarter of women reported that their partners accompanied them to the clinic, they described receiving other material and psychosocial support from partners. More HIV-positive women reported that their partners were not involved or not supportive, and in some cases direct threats and experiences with violence caused them to fear partner involvement.
Discussion: We need to broaden the lens through which we consider male support during pregnancy and in the postpartum period and acknowledge that male involvement may not always be in the best interest of women. Engaging supportive partners outside of the clinic setting and incorporating other important social network members are important next steps in the effort to increase support for women.