Background: Antenatal care is a very important component of maternal health services. It provides the opportunity to learn about risks associated with pregnancy and guides to plan the place of deliveries thereby preventing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. In 'Pakistan' antenatal services to rural population are being provided through a network of primary health care facilities designated as 'Basic Health Units and Rural Health Centers. Pakistan is a developing country, consisting of four provinces and federally administered areas. Each province is administratively subdivided in to 'Divisions' and 'Districts'. By population 'Punjab' is the largest province of Pakistan having 36 districts. This study was conducted to assess the coverage and quality antenatal care in the primary health care facilities in 'Punjab' province of 'Pakistan'.
Methods: Quantitative and Qualitative methods were used to collect data. Using multistage sampling technique nine out of thirty six districts were selected and 19 primary health care facilities of public sector (seventeen Basic Health Units and two Rural Health Centers were randomly selected from each district. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews were conducted with clients, providers and health managers.
Results: The overall enrollment for antenatal checkup was 55.9% and drop out was 32.9% in subsequent visits. The quality of services regarding assessment, treatment and counseling was extremely poor. The reasons for low coverage and quality were the distant location of facilities, deficiency of facility resources, indifferent attitude and non availability of the staff. Moreover, lack of client awareness about importance of antenatal care and self empowerment for decision making to seek care were also responsible for low coverage.
Conclusion: The coverage and quality of the antenatal care services in 'Punjab' are extremely compromised. Only half of the expected pregnancies are enrolled and out of those 1/3 drop out in follow-up visits.