Gender, pregnancy and the uptake of antenatal care services in Pakistan

Sociol Health Illn. 2007 Jan;29(1):1-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.00519.x.


An integrated analysis of detailed ethnography and large-scale survey data is presented to explore the gendered influences on women's uptake of antenatal care (ANC) services in Punjab, Pakistan. Pregnancy and its associated decisions were shown to be normatively the older women's domain, with pregnant women and their husbands being distanced from the decision-making process. Women who successfully claimed ANC did so not by overtly challenging the dominant construction of young femininity, but rather by using existing gendered structures and channels of communication to influence authority figures. The quality of a woman's inter-personal ties, particularly with her mother-in-law and husband, were found to be important in accessing resources, including ANC. Gendered influences were moderated by social class. Family finances were an important determinant of ANC use, as was women's education. Wealthier, higher status women also found it easier to circumvent gendered proscriptions against their mobility while pregnant. As well as illuminating the ways in which the sociocultural construction of gender acts to constrain women's access to ANC, the empirical findings are used to highlight significant inadequacies in the 'autonomy paradigm' that has dominated much of the research into women's reproductive health in South Asia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pakistan
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / economics
  • Prenatal Care / methods*
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires