Armed conflicts, which primarily occur in low- and middle-income countries, have profound consequences for the health of affected populations, among them a decrease in the utilization of maternal health care services. The quantitative relationship between armed conflict and maternal health care utilization has received limited attention in the public health literature. We evaluate this relationship for a particular type of health care service, antenatal care, in Nepal. Using count regression techniques, household survey data and sub-national conflict data, we find a negative correlation between the number of antenatal care visits and incidents of conflict-related violence within a respondent's village development committee. Specifically, we find that under high-intensity conflict conditions women receive between 0.3 and 1.5 fewer antenatal care check-ups. These findings imply that maternal health care utilization is partially determined by characteristics of the social environment (e.g. political instability) and suggest health care providers need to revise maternal health strategies in conflict-affected areas. Strategies may include decentralization of services, maintaining neutrality among factions, strengthening community-based health services and developing mobile clinics.
Keywords: Antenatal care; health care utilization; maternal health; political violence.