Background and methods: Monitoring use-inequity is important to measure progress in efforts to address health-inequities. Using data from six Bangladesh Demographic and Health Surveys (BDHS), we examine trends, inequities and socio-demographic determinants of use of maternal health care services in Bangladesh between 1991 and 2011.
Findings: Access to maternal health care services has improved in the last two decades. The adjusted yearly trend was 9.0% (8.6%-9.5%) for any antenatal care (ANC), 11.9% (11.1%-12.7%) for institutional delivery, and 18.9% (17.3%-20.5%) for C-section delivery which is above the WHO recommended rate of 5-15%. Use-inequity was significant for all three indicators but is reducing over time. Between 1991-1994 and 2007-2011 the rich:poor ratio reduced from 3.65 to 1.65 for ANC and from 15.80 to 6.77 for institutional delivery. Between 1995-1998 and 2007-2011, the concentration index reduced from 0.27 (0.25-0.29) to 0.15 (0.14-0.16) for ANC, and from 0.65 (0.60-0.71) to 0.39 (0.37-0.41) for institutional delivery during that period. For use of c-section, the rich:poor ratio reduced from 18.17 to 13.39 and the concentration index from 0.66 (0.57-0.75) to 0.47 (0.45-0.49). In terms of rich:poor differences, there was equity-gain for ANC but not for facility delivery or C-section delivery. All socio-demographic variables were significant predictors of use; of them, maternal education was the most powerful. In addition, the contribution of for-profit private sector is increasingly growing in maternal health.
Conclusion: Both access and equity are improving in maternal health. We recommend strengthening ongoing health and non-health interventions for the poor. Use-inequity should be monitored using multiple indicators which are incorporated into routine health information systems. Rising C-section rate is alarming and indication of C-sections should be monitored both in private and public sector facilities.