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Do Malawian women critically assess the quality of care? A qualitative study on women’s perceptions of perinatal care at a district hospital in Malawi

Lily C Kumbani12*, Ellen Chirwa2, Address Malata2, Jon Øyvind Odland3 and Gunnar Bjune1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Society, Department of Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway, P.O. Box 1130, Blindern, Oslo 0318, Norway

2 Kamuzu College of Nursing, Blantyre Campus, P.O. Box 415, Blantyre, Malawi

3 University of Tromsø, Tromsø N-9037, Norway

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Reproductive Health 2012, 9:30  doi:10.1186/1742-4755-9-30

Published: 16 November 2012



Malawi has a high perinatal mortality rate of 40 deaths per 1,000 births. To promote neonatal health, the Government of Malawi has identified essential health care packages for improving maternal and neonatal health in health care facilities. However, regardless of the availability of health services, women’s perceptions of the care is important as it influences whether the women will or will not use the services. In Malawi 95% of pregnant women receive antenatal care from skilled attendants, but the number is reduced to 71% deliveries being conducted by skilled attendants. The objective of this study was to describe women’s perceptions on perinatal care among the women delivered at a district hospital.


A descriptive study design with qualitative data collection and analysis methods. Data were collected through face-to-face in-depth interviews using semi-structured interview guides collecting information on women’s perceptions on perinatal care. A total of 14 in depth interviews were conducted with women delivering at Chiradzulu District Hospital from February to March 2011. The women were asked how they perceived the care they received from health workers during antepartum, intrapartum and postpartum. They were also asked about the information they received during provision of care. Data were manually analyzed using thematic analysis.


Two themes from the study were good care and unsatisfactory care. Subthemes under good care were: respect, confidentiality, privacy and normal delivery. Providers’ attitude, delay in providing care, inadequate care, and unavailability of delivery attendants were subthemes under unsatisfactory care.


Although the results show that women wanted to be well received at health facilities, respected, treated with kindness, dignity and not shouted at, they were not critical of the care they received. The women did not know the quality of care to expect because they were not well informed. The women were not critical of the care they received because they were not aware of the standard of care. Instead they had low expectations. Health workers have a responsibility to inform women and their families about the care that women should expect. There is also a need for standardization of the antenatal information that is provided.

Antenatal information; Perinatal care information; Perinatal period; Quality of care; Skilled birth attendant