Cahiers d'études et de recherches francophones / Santé


Prenatal care in Kinshasa: Knowledge, beliefs, and barriers to timely care Volume 15, issue 2, Mai-Juin 2005


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Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, United States, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Kinshasa, GTZ Santé, 5342, avenue du Cercle, Kinshasa Gombe, BP 7555, République démocratique du Congo, Ministère de la santé, Kinshasa, Hôpital général de Kinshasa, Pav. 27, Avenue Tombalbaye 67–78, BP 8502, Kinshasa Gombe, République démocratique du Congo

According to the international medical community, adequate antenatal care, beginning by the end of the fourth month of pregnancy, is beneficial to maternal and perinatal outcomes. However, there is little research on timing of antenatal care and factors that influence it, including external barriers and women’s beliefs. This research was conducted at antenatal clinics in the Democratic Republic of Congo where rates of infant and maternal mortality are among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa and where antenatal care begins later than in other countries in the region; the goal was to assess knowledge, beliefs and barriers to timely antenatal care. In this paper we present data collected in structured interviews at the women’s first antenatal visit (N=206). Although 75% of women believed antenatal care should start before the end of the fourth month, as recommended by WHO, only 22% presented by this time. Important barriers were financial (37%) and lack of knowledge about appropriate timing (35%). Gravidity was associated with gestational age at first visit (p<0.001). Average gestational age at first visit was 4.7 months in primigravidae and 5.9 months in women with ≥ 2 previous pregnancies. Most women in Kinshasa begin antenatal care later than recommended by WHO. Educating women on the importance of timely antenatal care and improving its financial accessibility should be priorities for maternal and child health programs in the DRC.