The COVID-19 Pandemic's Impact on Health Service Utilization Among Pregnant Women in Three Nigerian States: A Mixed Methods Study

Matern Child Health J. 2024 Feb;28(2):294-302. doi: 10.1007/s10995-023-03820-3. Epub 2023 Nov 17.


Objective: COVID-19 disrupted health service delivery and weakened global and national health systems. The objective of this study was to describe the changes in health service utilization in three local government areas (LGAs) in Nigeria and examine factors involved.

Methods: A cross-sectional mixed-methods approach was used. A total of 315 pregnant women seen for antenatal care in 80 health facilities in three LGAs between October 1 and November 30, 2020, participated in exit interviews; 93 women participated in focus group discussions (FGDs). Descriptive analyses and a multivariable logistic analysis were conducted to examine associations between characteristics and decreased service utilization. Content analysis was used to identify the emerging themes related to health service utilization during the pandemic.

Results: One quarter of women reported that they reduced or ceased health service. The biggest reported changes were in immunization (47 to 30%, p < 0.001) and a small but statistically significant decline in antenatal care (98.7 to 93.8%, p < 0.001) was observed. Qualitative findings show that lockdowns, transportation issues, increased costs and fear of contracting COVID-19 or being labeled as COVID-positive were the most common reasons for not seeking care during this period of the pandemic.

Conclusions: The pandemic negatively impacted health service utilization amongst pregnant women in Nigeria. A better understanding of differences in state response could help inform future actions. The findings highlight the need for health systems to consider how to facilitate service utilization during a pandemic, such as providing safe transport or increasing outreach, and to minimize stigma for those seeking care.

Keywords: ANC; COVID 19 pandemic; Change; Lockdown; Nigeria; Service delivery; Service utilization.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women*

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