Background: Disparities in perinatal health care occur worldwide. If the UN Millennium Development Goals in maternal and child health are to be met, this needs to be addressed. This study was conducted to facilitate our understanding of the changing use of maternity care services in a semi-urban community in Entebbe Uganda and to examine the range of antenatal and delivery services received in health care facilities and at home.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective community survey among women using structured questionnaires to describe the use of antenatal services and delivery care.
Results: In total 413 women reported on their most recent pregnancy. Antenatal care attendance was high with 96% attending once, and 69% the recommended four times. Blood pressure monitoring (95%) and tetanus vaccination (91%) were the services most frequently reported and HIV testing (47%), haematinics (58%) and presumptive treatment for malaria (66%) least frequently. Hospital clinics significantly outperformed public clinics in the quality of antenatal service. A significant improvement in the reported quality of antenatal services received was observed by year (p < 0.001). Improvement in the range and consistency of services at Entebbe Hospital over time was associated with an increase in the numbers who sought care there (p = 0.038). Although 63% delivered their newborn at a local hospital, 11% still delivered at home with no skilled assistance and just under half of these women reported financial/transportation difficulties as the primary reason. Less educated, poorer mothers were more likely to have unskilled/no assistance. Simple newborn care practices were commonly neglected. Only 35% of newborns were breastfed within the first hour and delayed wrapping of newborn infants occurred after 27% of deliveries.
Conclusion: Although antenatal services were well utilised, the quality of services varied. Women were able and willing to travel to a facility providing a good service. Access to essential skilled birth attendants remains difficult especially for less educated, poorer women, commonly mediated by financial and transport difficulties and several simple post delivery practices were commonly neglected. These factors need to be addressed to ensure that high quality care reaches the most vulnerable women and infants.