Coverage and timing of antenatal care among poor women in 6 Mesoamerican countries

Published August 19, 2016, in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (opens in a new window)


Poor women in the developing world have a heightened need for antenatal care (ANC) but are often the least likely to attend it. This study examines factors associated with the number and timing of ANC visits for poor women in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and El Salvador.


We surveyed 8366 women regarding the ANC they attended for their most recent birth in the past two years. We conducted logistic regressions to examine demographic, household, and health characteristics associated with attending at least one skilled ANC visit, four skilled visits, and a skilled visit in the first trimester.


Across countries, 78 % of women attended at least one skilled ANC visit, 62 % attended at least four skilled visits, and 56 % attended a skilled visit in the first trimester. The proportion of women attending four skilled visits was highest in Nicaragua (81 %) and lowest in Guatemala (18 %) and Panama (38 %). In multiple countries, women who were unmarried, less-educated, adolescent, indigenous, had not wanted to conceive, and lacked media exposure were less likely to meet international ANC guidelines. In countries with health insurance programs, coverage was associated with attending skilled ANC, but not the timeliness.


Despite significant policy reforms and initiatives targeting the poor, many women living in the poorest regions of Mesoamérica are not meeting ANC guidelines. Both supply and demand interventions are needed to prioritize vulnerable groups, reduce unplanned pregnancies, and reach populations not exposed to common forms of media. Top performing municipalities can inform effective practices across the region.

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Dansereau E, McNellan CR, Gagnier MC, Desai SS, Haakenstad A, Johanns CK, Palmisano EB, Ríos-Zertuche D, Schaefer A, Zúñiga-Brenes P, Hernandez B, Iriarte E, Mokdad AH. Coverage and timing of antenatal care among poor women in 6 Mesoamerican countriesBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2016 Aug 19; 16:234. DOI: 10.1186/s12884-016-1018-5


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