Our study investigates the associations between women’s autonomy and attitudes toward the acceptability of intimate-partner violence against women (IPVAW) and maternal health-care utilization outcomes.
We combine data from 113 Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 2003 and 2016, which give us a pooled sample of 765 169 mothers and 777 352 births from 63 countries. We generate composite scores of women’s autonomy (six-point scale with reference: no contribution) and acceptability of IPVAW (five-point scale with reference: no acceptance) and assess the associations between these measures and women’s use of antenatal care services and facility delivery in pooled and unique country samples.
A change in a woman’s autonomy score from ‘no contribution to any decision-making domain’ (a composite autonomy score of 0) to ‘contribution to all decision-making domains’ (a score of 6) is associated with a 31.2% increase in her odds of delivering in a facility and a 42.4% increase in her odds of receiving at least eight antenatal care visits over the course of her pregnancy. In contrast, a change in a woman’s attitude towards acceptability of IPVAW from ‘IPVAW is not acceptable under any scenario’ (a score of 0) to ‘IPVAW is acceptable in all scenarios’ (a score of 5) is associated with an 8.9% decrease in her odds of delivering in a facility and a 20.3% decrease in her odds of receiving eight antenatal care visits.
Our findings suggest that strong and significant associations exist between autonomy, acceptability of IPVAW and utilization of maternal health-care services.