Background The 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for antenatal care (ANC) shift the recommended minimum number of ANC contacts from four to eight, specifying the first contact to occur within the first trimester of pregnancy. We quantify the likelihood of meeting this recommendation in 54 Countdown to 2030 priority countries and identify the characteristics of women being left behind. Methods Using 54 Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) since 2012, we reported the proportion of women with timely ANC initiation and those who received 8-10 contacts by coverage levels of ANC4+ and by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) regions. We identified demographic, socio-economic and health systems characteristics of timely ANC initiation and achievement of ANC8+. We ran four multiple regression models to quantify the associations between timing of first ANC and the number and content of ANC received. Results Overall, 49.9% of women with ANC1+ and 44.3% of all women had timely ANC initiation; 11.3% achieved ANC8+ and 11.2% received no ANC. Women with timely ANC initiation had 5.2 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 5.0-5.5) and 4.7 (95% CI = 4.4-5.0) times higher odds of receiving four and eight ANC contacts, respectively (P < 0.001), and were more likely to receive a higher content of ANC than women with delayed ANC initiation. Regionally, women in Central and Southern Asia had the best performance of timely ANC initiation; Latin America and Caribbean had the highest proportion of women achieving ANC8+. Women who did not initiate ANC in the first trimester or did not achieve 8 contacts were generally poor, single women, with low education, living in rural areas, larger households, having short birth intervals, higher parity, and not giving birth in a health facility nor with a skilled attendant. Conclusions Timely ANC initiation is likely to be a major driving force towards meeting the 2016 WHO guidelines for a positive pregnancy experience.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health