Prenatal care sometimes referred to as antenatal care is crucial in reducing infant mortality rate and maternal deaths. Prenatal care is a preventive healthcare and regular checkups on expectant women by doctors or midwives with the aim of treating or preventing any health problem during pregnancy while ensuring that the mother adopts a healthy lifestyle both for the baby and herself. Pregnant women are expected to visit clinics as regular as possible and whenever they suspect any unusual occurrence or feeling with the pregnancy. Despite the government and health agencies’ effort to encourage prenatal care, most expectant mothers do not receive any skilled medical attention at all. In Ethiopia, 59% of women deliver without attending prenatal care.
Factors Contributing to Low a Prevalence of Prenatal Care
Women's perceptions regarding prenatal care is one of the factors that have significantly impacted the number of women attending prenatal care. Some women perceive prenatal care as just measuring weight, taking blood pills and checking the position of the baby and have no direct influence on the child or their health. The negative perception that is sometimes created by the medical officers has significantly affected the number of women attending prenatal today. Access to healthcare facilities for prenatal is still a challenge, especially in the rural areas. These facilities are located miles away from homes and villages. Pregnant women have to walk for a distance to access such services. Some clinics do not have adequate staff to attend to the rising prenatal care needs thus pregnant women have to wait for long to be attended. Long queues discourage women from attending prenatal care. The direct and indirect cost associated with prenatal discourage poor women from attending prenatal care because they cannot afford to pay for the cost. Women in areas of high HIV/AIDS prevalence fear prenatal care for fear of stigmatization because of their HIV status or for fear of knowing their status. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation also have a direct influence on the number of women attending prenatal care. Women who have not gone through female genital mutilation fear and attending prenatal care because of stigmatization and rejection. Most of them will rather hide their pregnancy and give birth at home.
Implications of Going Without Prenatal Care
Lack of prenatal care is one of the leading cause of both infant deaths and maternal mortality around the world. Women who do not attend prenatal care are at a risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies who are likely to die before their fifth birthday. Some infants are born with defects that might have been corrected during prenatal care. Maternal death is high among women who do not attend prenatal care and are likely to give birth away from hospitals or clinics for fear of being chastened by health officials thereby increasing the risk of maternal deaths.
Some of the other countries with low rates of prenatal care include Laos, Yemen, Nigeria, Sudan, Bangladesh, and Nepal who had more than 30% of women not attending prenatal care. Prenatal care in these countries is low because of uneven distribution of health facilities, lack of education on the importance of prenatal care, and cultural factors.