Demand for women’s health services in northern Nigeria: a review of the literature
Demand for and utilization of women‘s health services in northern Nigeria are consistently low and health indicators in the region are among the poorest in the world. This literature review focuses on social and cultural barriers to contraceptive use, antenatal care, and facility births in northern Nigeria, and influencers of young women‘s health-seeking behavior. A thorough search of peer reviewed and grey literature yielded 41 publications that were synthesized and analyzed. The region‘s population is predominantly Muslim, practicing Islam as a complete way of life. While northern Nigerian society is slowly changing, most women still lack formal education, with a significant proportion married in their teens, and the majority neither socially nor economically empowered. The husband largely makes most household decisions, including utilization of healthcare services by members of his household. These practices directly impact women‘s health-seeking behaviors for themselves and for their children. Programs seeking to improve women‘s health outcomes in northern Nigeria should involve women‘s influencers to affect behavior change, including husbands, religious leaders, and others. More research is needed to identify pathways of information that can be utilized by programs designed to increase demand for health services.
Keywords: Maternal health, family planning, demand-side, Northern Nigeria, literature review