Background: The first (booking) visit is a very important component of antenatal care as service providers use the occasion to collect basic medical information that will form the basis to care for the patient throughout pregnancy. The study was undertaken to establish the socio-demographic characteristics of the patients booking at the UBTH, and determine areas where changes could be made to improve service uptake.
Material and methods: Between the months of February and August 1998, 378 consecutive pregnant women initiating antenatal care were interviewed using a structured questionnaire.
Results: The majorities (52.1%) of the patients were middle class, while 87.5% have a secondary or tertiary education. The mean age of the mothers was 29.7 years, and a mean parity of 1.3. Primigravidae constituted 32.0% of the patients; the number of mothers booking declined with increasing parity. The mean gestational age at booking was 23.7 weeks. The sixth month was the peak period for the initiation of antenatal care. The decision to attend UBTH for antenatal care was taken by the husband alone in 52% of the cases. Late booking because of ignorance and financial constraints was observed in 41.5% and 25% of the patients respectively.
Conclusion: Patients attending UBTH are educated and of low parity. Initiation of antenatal care is late due to ignorance and financial constraints. Male dominance influences patients' adequate utilisation of antenatal services. Provision for the expectant fathers to attend maternity care activities will improve service uptake.