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Women's autonomy and pregnancy care in rural India: A contextual analysis
Authors: Mistry R, Galal O, Lu M.
Source: Social Science and Medicine, Sep2009, Vol. 69 Issue 6, p926-933, 8p; DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.07.008
Topic(s): Maternal health
Women's autonomy
Country: Asia
Published: SEP 2009
Abstract: Abstract Studies in low-income countries have shown that women's autonomy (i.e. the freedom of women to exercise their judgment in order to act for their own interests) influences a number of reproductive and child health outcomes, including the use of pregnancy care services. However, studies have not examined the full spectrum of pregnancy care services needed for safe motherhood and have not accounted for community context. This study analyzed data on women and their villages from the cross-sectional population-based National Family Health Survey-2 (1998-1999) of rural India to investigate whether women's autonomy (measured in the 3 dimensions of decision-making autonomy, permission to go out, and financial autonomy) was associated with the use of adequate prenatal, delivery and postnatal care. The findings indicate women's autonomy was associated with greater use of pregnancy care services, particularly prenatal and postnatal care. The effect of women's autonomy on pregnancy care use varied according to the region of India examined (North, East and South) such that it was most consistently associated with pregnancy care use in south India, which also had the highest level of self-reported women's autonomy. The results regarding village level factors suggest that public investment in rural economic development, primary health care access, social cohesion and basic infrastructure such as electrification and paved roads were associated with pregnancy care use. Improvements in women's autonomy and these village factors may improve healthier child bearing in rural India.