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Reprod Health. 2012 Mar 20;9:5. doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-9-5.

Home birth and barriers to referring women with obstetric complications to hospitals: a mixed-methods study in Zahedan, southeastern Iran.

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Department of Demography & Population Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran, Tehran, 14395-773, Iran.



One factor that contributes to high maternal mortality in developing countries is the delayed use of Emergency Obstetric-Care (EmOC) facilities. The objective of this study was to determine the factors that hinder midwives and parturient women from using hospitals when complications occur during home birth in Sistan and Baluchestan province, Iran, where 23% of all deliveries take place in non- hospital settings.


In the study and data management, a mixed-methods approach was used. In the quantitative phase, we compared the existing health-sector data with World Health Organization (WHO) standards for the availability and use of EmOC services. The qualitative phase included collection and analysis of interviews with midwives and traditional birth attendants and twenty-one in-depth interviews with mothers. The data collected in this phase were managed according to the principles of qualitative data analysis.


The findings demonstrate that three distinct factors lead to indecisiveness and delay in the use of EmOC by the midwives and mothers studied. Socio-cultural and familial reasons compel some women to choose to give birth at home and to hesitate seeking professional emergency care for delivery complications. Apprehension about being insulted by physicians, the necessity of protecting their professional integrity in front of patients and an inability to persuade their patients lead to an over-insistence by midwives on completing deliveries at the mothers' homes and a reluctance to refer their patients to hospitals. The low quality and expense of EmOC and the mothers' lack of health insurance also contribute to delays in referral.


Women who choose to give birth at home accept the risk that complications may arise. Training midwives and persuading mothers and significant others who make decisions about the value of referring women to hospitals at the onset of life-threatening complications are central factors to increasing the use of available hospitals. The hospitals must be safe, comfortable and attractive environments for parturition and should give appropriate consideration to the ethical and cultural concerns of the women. Appropriate management of financial and insurance-related issues can help midwives and mothers make a rational decision when complications arise.

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