Introduction: Despite the international emphasis in the last few years on the need to address the unmet health needs of pregnant women and children, progress in reducing maternal mortality has been slow. This is particularly worrying in sub-Saharan Africa where over 162,000 women still die each year during pregnancy and childbirth, most of them because of the lack of access to skilled delivery attendance and emergency care. With a maternal mortality ratio of 673 per 100,000 live births and 19,000 maternal deaths annually, Ethiopia is a major contributor to the worldwide death toll of mothers. While some studies have looked at different risk factors for antenatal care (ANC) and delivery service utilisation in the country, information coming from community-based studies related to the Health Extension Programme (HEP) in rural areas is limited. This study aims to determine the prevalence of maternal health care utilisation and explore its determinants among rural women aged 15-49 years in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Methods: The study was a community-based cross-sectional survey using a structured questionnaire. A cluster sampling technique was used to select women who had given birth at least once in the five years prior to the survey period. Univariable and multivariable logistic regression analyses were carried out to elicit the impact of each factor on ANC and institutional delivery service utilisation.
Results: The response rate was 99% (n=1113). The mean age of the participants was 30.4 years. The proportion of women who received ANC for their recent births was 54%; only 46 (4.1%) of women gave birth at a health facility. Factors associated with ANC utilisation were marital status, education, proximity of health facility to the village, and husband's occupation, while use of institutional delivery was mainly associated with parity, education, having received ANC advice, a history of difficult/prolonged labour, and husbands' occupation.
Conclusions: A relatively acceptable utilisation of ANC services but extremely low institutional delivery was observed. Classical socio-demographic factors were associated with both ANC and institutional delivery attendance. ANC advice can contribute to increase institutional delivery use. Different aspects of HEP need to be strengthened to improve maternal health in Tigray.