New national guidelines in Malawi ensure privacy during childbirth

Thousands of women across Malawi told us that “privacy and confidentiality” in care was their top demand for their health. One reason for this need is that women and birthing people across the country are often forced to give birth with no privacy – and sometimes in very public spaces.  

These women’s voices shone a light on the overlooked issue of privacy. As a result, in 2018 advocates were able to influence the Ministry of Health’s national guidelines on the construction and renovation of public health facilities to require that maternity wings install delivery cubicles with bathrooms and toilets for privacy. Cubicles are now designed to accommodate the woman and her baby, a birth companion, and a midwife. 

One of the issues that came out very strongly from the voices of women was the need for dignified care, specifically in delivery rooms. We now have a policy requiring privacy screens in the delivery ward to give women the respect and privacy they deserve.  Prior to this, some women would avoid going to the hospital saying that people are walking by the hospitals [where women were laboring with no privacy] and nurses weren’t concerned.

Honorable Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda
MP, Ministry of Health, Malawi 

The new guideline means that any new construction of maternity units must include private delivery cubicles, and advocates confirm implementation is occurring, with recent verification of the installation of delivery cubicles at the Chitipa District Hospital. In Chitipa, the maternity wing upgrades are also helping to increase the number of male partners attending birth. In Dowa, Zomba, and Chitipa districts, a midwife champion has successfully advocated for installation of privacy curtains in health facilities there as well. 

There is improved privacy in hospitals during delivery since now there are curtains in the labor ward. People [women] know their rights and responsibilities as patients. Husbands are accompanying their wives to the antenatal clinic now.

Patricia, community member

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