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Health Policy Plan. 1999 Mar;14(1):38-48.

Does antenatal care make a difference to safe delivery? A study in urban Uttar Pradesh, India.

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  • 1Carolina Population Center, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


Evidence to support that antenatal screenings and interventions are effective in reducing maternal mortality has been scanty and studies have presented contradictory findings. In addition, antenatal care utilization is poorly characterized in studies. As an exposure under investigation, antenatal care should be well defined. However, measures typically only account for the frequency and timing of visits and not for care content. We introduce a new measure for antenatal care utilization, comprised of 20 input components covering care content and visit frequency. Weights for each component reflect its relative importance to better maternal and child health, and were derived from a survey of international researchers. This composite measure for antenatal care utilization was studied in a probability sample of 300 low to middle income women who had given birth within the last three years in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Results showed that demarcating women's antenatal care status based on a simple indicator--two or more visits versus less--masked a large amount of variation in care received. Logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the effect of antenatal care utilization on the likelihood of using safe delivery care, a factor known to decrease maternal mortality. After controlling for relevant socio-demographic and maternity history factors, women with a relatively high level of care (at the 75th percentile of the score) had an estimated odds of using trained assistance at delivery that was almost four times higher than women with a low level of care (at the 25th percentile of the score) (OR = 3.97, 95% CI = 1.96, 8.10). Similar results were obtained for women delivering in a health facility versus at home. This strong positive association between level of care obtained during pregnancy and the use of safe delivery care may help explain why antenatal care could also be associated with reduced maternal mortality.

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