Objectives: Evidence about sociodemographic factors associated with late attendance for antenatal care in the UK is of poor quality. This study aimed to identify any social or ethnic differences in access to antenatal care, and to quantify the effect of any such differences using data collected in a survey of women's experiences of antenatal screening.
Study design: Cross-sectional survey using a postal questionnaire.
Methods: A stratified clustered random sampling strategy was used. Hospitals in England were stratified according to ethnic mix. In order to ensure inclusion of an adequate number of women from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds, hospitals with >or= 15% of women of BME origin were oversampled. Pregnant women aged >or= 16 years, receiving care in 15 participating hospitals, were sent a postal questionnaire at 27-31 weeks of gestation. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (ORs) comparing social and ethnic groups for attendance for antenatal care, adjusting for sociodemographic and clinical factors.
Results: In total, 839 women (57%) returned completed questionnaires. Compared with all women giving birth in 2005 in England and Wales, the survey sample contained fewer women aged <20 years (5.8% vs 6.9%), more women aged >35 years (24.1% vs 19.6%) and fewer women who were born outside the UK (14.8% vs 20.8%). Five percent of responders were late attenders for their first antenatal appointment. The odds of late initiation of antenatal care were higher for women born outside the UK [OR 4.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.25-8.52; P=0.0004] and for women living without a husband/partner (OR 2.74, 95% CI 1.81-4.16; P=0.0002). In total, 2.5% of women were late attenders for their booking appointment. The odds of late booking were higher for Black women (OR 5.92, 95% CI 2.97-11.83) and women living without a husband/partner (OR 1.95, 95% CI 0.97-3.93; P=0.06).
Conclusions: A small proportion of women initiate and/or book late for antenatal care. This study provides recent, good-quality evidence that women born outside the UK and those living without a husband/partner may be at particular risk of late attendance for antenatal care.