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Abstract

Male partner involvement (MPI) during antenatal care has been promoted as an effective intervention to improve maternal and newborn health outcomes. Although MPI is commonly defined as men attending antenatal clinic visits with their female partner, few men attend antenatal clinic visits in rural communities in the province of Mpumalanga, South Africa. The study aimed to qualitatively explore the meaning and understanding of MPI as perceived by men visiting primary health care clinics in rural communities in Mpumalanga. Six focus groups discussions (n = 53) were conducted, digitally recorded, simultaneously transcribed, and translated verbatim into English. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis. Perceptions of male roles during and after pregnancy differed among men. Male involvement was understood as giving instrumental support to female partners through financial help, helping out with physical tasks, and providing emotional support. Accompanying female partners to the clinic was also viewed as partner support, including behaviors such as holding a spot for her in the clinic queues. Community attitudes, traditional beliefs, and negative experiences in health facilities were barriers for MPI. This study provides support for concerted efforts to work with both men and women within the cultural context to explore the important roles of all members of the family in working together to provide the best possible health outcomes for mother and infant. In particular, future interventions should focus on making antenatal care services more responsive to male partners, and improving male partner accessibility in health care facilities.

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