Award given to student conducting maternity research in Nepal

Award given to student conducting maternity research in Nepal

A University of Aberdeen PhD student is about to begin research into why less than half of pregnant women use ante-natal care services in a country where many women die in childbirth.

The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland has given Bibha Simkhada £1,790 towards her research programme which will involve interviewing women in Nepal about their access to antenatal care.

The maternal mortality rate in Nepal is 740 per 100,000 women aged 15-49 years, which is one of the highest in the world. Yet just 48% of women use the antenatal services, which exist but are limited. This figure is even lower than the developing countries’ average, with 65% of women in developing countries receiving antenatal care: 63% in Africa; 65% in Asia; and 73% in Latin America. In developed countries 97% of women receive antenatal care.

Very little research has been conducted in Nepal into the reproductive health field; in addition, no study has been conducted to explore the actual factors, which are responsible for utilisation or non-utilisation of antenatal care services.

But studies elsewhere suggest this is a key area for improving maternal and infant health. Ms Simkhada’s study will be of use not only to researchers and academics, but to maternity care providers and health policy-makers throughout the developing world.

Originally from Nepal and a UK resident for the past seven years, Ms Simkhada is a full-time student based at the University’s Dugald Baird Centre for Research in Women’s Health.

She said: “I want to find out why more women are not using the antenatal care services. Is it because of distance – are they too far from health services? However, women in urban areas are not using the services either.

“Are there any barriers from family members? Who decides whether to go or not for antenatal care? What factors may affect the women’s health seeking behaviour? How is the decision process made with in the household? The question of who decides to use antenatal care services; mothers-in-law husband or friends is clearly important. Or perhaps it is a lack of knowledge.”

Mrs Simkhada expects to spend around four to five months doing her fieldwork in Nepal where around 90% of babies are delivered at home. She will interview pregnant women and women with children less than a year old. She will also speak to the womens’ partners for the study which is expected to take three to four years.

Ms Simkhada is supervised by Dr Maureen Porter in the University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Dr. Edwin van Teijlingen in the University’s Department of Public Health.

Dr Porter said of the funding award: “This is good news for Bibha and her research project. She is a very bright and hard working student. This Carnegie Research Grant will enable Bibha to spend more time on her fieldwork in Nepal.”

Dr Van Teijlingen added: “This grant is also a recognition of the growing body of International Health Research in the Institute of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Aberdeen.”

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