Intersections between patient-provider communication and antenatal anxiety in a public healthcare setting in Pakistan

Asiya K. Kazi, Armaan A. Rowther, Najia Atif, Huma Nazir, Maria Atiq, Shaffaq Zulfiqar, Abid Malik, Pamela J. Surkan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores pregnant women's and healthcare providers' perspectives on the role of patient-provider communication in experiences of antenatal anxiety within a low-resource setting. In 2017-18, we consecutively sampled pregnant women (n = 19) with at least mild anxiety and purposively sampled antenatal care providers (n = 10) from a public hospital in Punjab Province, Pakistan. We then conducted in-depth interviews and thematically coded them with a combination of inductive and deductive coding methodologies. We found that patients expressed a desire for warm, empathetic communication from providers who demonstrate respect, attentiveness, and a shared lived experience. Providers revealed an awareness that their heavy caseloads, high stress levels, and discourteous tones adversely influenced communication with pregnant women and may exacerbate their anxieties, but also reported that compassionately addressing women's concerns, providing financial problem- solving and/or assistance, and moderating conflicting healthcare desires between patients and their families could alleviate anxiety in pregnant women. Patients reported feelings of anxiety stemming from a belief that they received lower quality communication from antenatal providers at public hospitals than patients received from antenatal providers at private hospitals, an experience that they partially attributed to their low socioeconomic status. Meanwhile, some providers disclosed potentially stigmatizing views of women from particular sociocultural backgrounds or low socioeconomic status, including perceptions that appeared to shape communication with these patients in antenatal care encounters. Our findings provide preliminary evidence that communication between pregnant women and antenatal providers that is warm, normalizes patient fears, and integrates patients' interpersonal and financial considerations can mitigate pregnant women's experiences of anxiety and reduce barriers to accessing antenatal care in Pakistan's public healthcare facilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0244671
JournalPloS one
Issue number2 February
StatePublished - Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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