The use of antenatal care in two rural districts of Upper West Region, Ghana

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Despite decades of implementation of maternity healthcare programmes, including a focus on increasing the use of antenatal care (ANC) and concomitant birth preparedness and complication readiness (BPCR), the uptake of ANC continues to be below expectations in many developing countries. This has attendant implications for maternal and infant morbidity and mortality rates. Known barriers to ANC use include cost, distance to health care services and
forces of various socio-cultural beliefs and practices. As part of a larger study on BPCR in rural Ghana, this paper reflects on the use of ANC in the study areas from rights-based and maternal engagement theoretical perspectives, with a focus on the barriers to ANC use.
Mixed methods approach was adopted to collect data from 8 study communities from individual in-depth interviews with 80 expectant mothers and 13 health care professionals, and 24 focus groups comprising 240 community members. The qualitative data followed a thematic analytical method, while the quantitative data was analysed using descriptive statistics.
The average number of ANC visits were 3.34±1.292, and the majority of expectant mothers (71.3%) enrolled for ANC at the 8th week or later, with the longest delay recorded at the 6th month of gestation. Traditional norms significantly influenced this delay. Likewise, overall use of ANC during pregnancy was shaped by cultural factors related to perceptions of pregnancy, gender-based roles and responsibilities and concerns that ANC would result in an overweighed baby and culturally inappropriate delivery at a health care facility.
Greater understanding of the sociocultural barriers to ANC is essential if proposed changes in community-specific health education programs are to facilitate early commencement and increased use of ANC.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0185537
Number of pages19
JournalPLoS One
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sep 2017


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