Antenatal care (ANC), sometimes referred to as prenatal care, is associated with better outcomes for both the mother and infant when of sufficient quality. The international recommendation is to attend ANC at least four times.[i] Yet in developing countries, while 80% of women attended ANC at least once, only 56% of women had at least four ANC visits, according to UN data.[ii] Most countries provide routine ANC through government health facilities and outreach programs; however, use rates vary, depending on demand, availability, quality, and access.
ANC visits are opportunities to provide preventive care and health education, identify and treat illnesses, encourage skilled attendance at birth, and prepare the mother and her family for possible emergencies. The WHO ANC model, intended for women without evidence of pregnancy-related complications, medical conditions, or major health related risk factors, was studied in a randomized-control trial and suggests specific goals and activities for each of the four recommended ANC visits.[iii] [iv]
[i] WHO, 2014. Global Health Observatory, Antenatal care (at least four visits). http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/services/antenatal_care_text/en/
[ii] UNICEF, 2014. UN Data.
[iii] WHO antenatal care randomized trial: manual for implementation of the new model. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2002. (Document WHO/RHR/01.30)
[iv] WHO, Department of Making Pregnancy Safer and Department of Reproductive Health and Research, 2007. Provision of effective antenatal care, in Standards of Maternal and Neonatal Care. Group 1: General standards of care for healthy pregnancy and childbirth.