Background: Preconception care (PCC) is a form of preventive health care that is offered to women and couples before conception, with the aim of improving their health status and mitigating various risk factors that could contribute to poor maternal and child health outcomes. The levels of PCC utilization are still low globally, especially in developing countries and in rural areas. Little is known regarding PCC use in Kenya that could help in addressing this shortfall. This study aimed to qualitatively assess the determinants of PCC in urban and rural settings in Kenya. Methods: A qualitative approach was employed to assess determinants of PCC using a semi-structured interview guide. The study was conducted from May to October 2017. Selected pregnant women seeking antenatal care (ANC) were recruited by quota sampling, at the Mother and Child Health (MCH) clinics in Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi (AKUH, N-urban) and Maragua Level Four Hospital (MLFH-rural). The interviews were thereafter transcribed verbatim and analyzed thematically. Findings: A total of 26 women were invited, of whom 21 accepted to participate in in-depth interviews (IDIs). Saturation of themes occurred with 13 interviews (7 at AKUH and 6 at MLFH). Transcription, coding and thematic analysis of the IDIs yielded 12 themes. Eleven of these themes were identified as determinants of PCC. The twelfth theme contained suggested strategies of increasing PCC awareness and utilization, such as using the media, setting up PCC clinics and integrating PCC into other clinics. The dominant themes were awareness about PCC and attitudes towards PCC and pregnancy. The broad determinants of PCC were similar in urban and rural settings – with a few notable exceptions. For example, in the rural setting, women’s level of education and a pervasive history of poor interactions with healthcare providers were major determinants of PCC. Conclusion: From this study we conclude that women’s lack of awareness about PCC, in conjunction with attitudes towards PCC and pregnancy impact strongly on its utilization. This lack of awareness could be addressed through health education programs for both the public and for healthcare providers, as well as integrating PCC in the curricula of the later.
- Preconception care