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Last update: Jan 2013

World Fit For Children Goal Millenium Development Goal
Special emphasis must be placed on antenatal and post-natal care, essential obstetric care and care for newborns, particularly for those living in areas without access to services

Target 5.B: Achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health


Antenatal care

 

The challenge

The antenatal period presents important opportunities for reaching pregnant women with a number of interventions that may be vital to their health and well-being and that of their infants.


Regular contact with a doctor, nurse or midwife allows health personnel to manage the pregnancy and provide a variety of services, such as treatment of hypertension to prevent eclampsia; tetanus immunization; intermittent preventive treatment for malaria and distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (in malaria endemic settings); prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; micronutrient supplementation; as well as birth preparedness, including information about danger signs during pregnancy and childbirth. The antenatal period is also an ideal opportunity to supply information on future birth spacing, which is recognized as an important factor in improving infant survival.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum of four antenatal visits. WHO guidelines recommend that antenatal care includes, at a minimum, the measurement of blood pressure, testing of urine for bacteriuria and proteinuria, and blood tests to detect syphilis and severe anaemia.

Antenatal care is common across the world

According to the latest estimates, globally 81 per cent of women receive antenatal care (ANC) from a skilled health provider at least once during pregnancy. Regional averages range from around 70 per cent in South Asia to over 90 per cent in East Asia and Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean.

 

Globally, the majority of pregnant women – at least 8 in 10 – receive antenatal care from a skilled health professional
Percentage of women attended at least once during pregnancy by skilled health personnel (doctor, nurse or midwife), 2007-2012

               
Source: SOWC 2013, UNICEF global databases 2012, from Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and other nationally representative sources.
Note: Global estimates are based on a subset of 117 countries, covering 82% of births in the developing world. Regional estimates represent data from countries covering at least 50% of regional births. Data coverage was insufficient to calculate the regional average for CEE/CIS region.
^ Data from India referring to 2005-2006 have been included in the regional aggregates despite falling outside of the noted reference period. India accounts for one fifth of the world's births, so it would be difficult to present the regional and global situation if they were excluded.

 

Coverage of the recommended minimum of four or more antenatal care visits is still too low

Globally, only half of all pregnant women receive the minimum recommended four antenatal visits. The data do not, however, reflect the quality of care, which is difficult to measure. It is essential to ensure a high quality of antenatal care so that services provided actually contribute to improved maternal health.

 

Although antenatal care coverage is high, just half of women globally receive the recommended minimum of four visits
Percentage of women attended at least four times during pregnancy by any provider, 2007-2012

              

Source: SOWC 2013, UNICEF global databases 2012, based on MICS, DHS and other national surveys.
Notes: Global estimates are based on a subset of 81countries, covering 73% of births in the developing world. Regional estimates represent data from countries covering at least 50% of regional births. Data coverage was insufficient to calculate the regional average for CEE/CIS as well as Middle East and North Africa regions.
* Excludes China.
^ Data from India referring to 2005-2006 have been included in the regional aggregates despite falling outside of the noted reference period. India accounts for one fifth of the world's births, so it would be difficult to present the regional and global situation if they were excluded.

 

References


UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2013, UNICEF, New York, 2013 (forthcoming).

 

UNICEF, Progress for Children: A report card on maternal mortality, Report No. 7, UNICEF, New York, 2008.

 

UNICEF/WHO, Antenatal Care in Developing Countries: Promises, achievements and missed opportunities, WHO, Geneva, 2003.

 

The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, Strategy and Workplan 2009 to 2011, WHO, Geneva, 2009.