The timing of first antenatal care visit and factors associated with access to care among antenatal care attendees at Chitungwiza municipal clinics, Zimbabwe
Background and Rationale: Antenatal care (ANC) is vital for accessing prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) services. The timing of the first ANC visit is critical for HIV infected pregnant women to access antiretroviral (ARV) prophylaxis as recommended. In addition pregnant women access other interventions like syphilis screening and treatment, provision of ferrous iron supplements, malaria prevention and treatment, health education, identification and management of risk factors. There is however paucity of information on factors associated with the timing and adequate use of ANC services in Chitungwiza Township, Zimbabwe. Aim: This study aimed to determine the factors associated with early access to and adequate use of ANC services among women attending ANC in the four polyclinics in Chitungwiza Township.Method:The study included a retrospective record review of women who registered for ANC in 2010 and a cross sectional study of pregnant women attending ANC clinic for the first time during the current pregnancy during the survey period. Data on gestation age at first ANC visit, number of ANC visits, age, gravidity, parity, tetanus, iron sulphate, rhesus results, HIV test result, WHO clinical stage, CD4 count, cotrimoxazole, PMTCT option accepted, date of initiation of AZT or ART; partner HIV test results; and infant feeding adherence done was abstracted into an MS Excel spreadsheet from the 2010 ANC registers in the four primary health care clinics. Every fourth record was captured. Exit interviews were also conducted on all women attending ANC for the first time during the current pregnancy using a structured questionnaire. Questions on socio-economic status, pregnancy history, reasons for seeking ANC, knowledge and belief about ANC services and their perception of the service received were asked. The outcome variables were gestation age at first ANC visit and the number of ANC visits. The spreadsheet was imported into Epi Info 188.8.131.52 and STATA 11 for analysis. The questionnaires were captured into an Epi Info 7 database exported to STATA 11 for analysis. A sample of 1,236 of first ANC visit records were abstracted from the 2010 ANC registers in the four primary care clinics and 80 women coming for ANC were interviewed in three clinics. The prevalence of pregnant women attending ANC for the first time at gestation age less or equal to 14 weeks and the prevalence of women with less than 4 ANC visits were computed. Pearson Chi-square tests were used to determine the strength of the relationships between the dependent variable (gestation age at the time of the first visit) and independent variables of age, marital status, level of education, parity, gravidity. All statistical tests were performed at 5% significance level and estimates were calculated at 95% confidence interval. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to investigate the association between the outcome and the independent variables. Model interpretation was done using odds ratios (OR). Levels of knowledge and perception about ANC services as well as service content during the visit were also summarized. Results: Less than 1% of the women who attended ANC in 2010 came for 1st visit at week 14 or less, while of the women interviewed, 2.5% came at similar gestation age. Thirty-nine percent of women attending ANC in 2010 had at least four visits. Lower parity and tetanus immunization were significantly associated with early ANC initiation, while tetanus immunization and syphilis screening were associated with the number of visits.Among the interviewed women (n=80), 72.1% believed that a pregnant women should start ANC at 14 weeks or earlier. Most women (61.7%) cited having no money for booking as the reason for not coming earlier. Need for husband or partners permission, procrastination and not having any health problems with previous pregnancies were also a barrier to access. Uptake of HIV testing was very high at 94.7% of the women. However partner testing was very low at 2.1%. Knowledge of the appropriate time of the first ANC visit was somewhat high but not universal. Conclusions and Recommendations: Timely and adequate uptake of ANC services is very low in Chitungwiza Township. The user-fees appeared to be a major barrier to accessing ANC timely. While correct knowledge about when to go for ANC and the health problems women face during pregnancy and childbirth is prevalent,other factors like the need for permission from spouse or partner and procrastination were barriers to seeking service. Abolishing maternity fees should be seriously considered in order to increase access to timely ANC services. Sustainable means of financing services without reducing quality should be sought. There was variable uptake of various interventions in the ANC package due in part to supplies stock outs. There is need for strengthening the procurement and distribution systems so as to ensure continuous supplies at service delivery level.