Background: In low- and middle-income countries, a large number of maternal and newborn deaths occur due to delays in health care seeking. These delays occur at three levels i.e. delay in making decision to seek care, delay in access to care, and delay in receiving care. Factors that cause delays are therefore need to be understand to prevent and avoid these delays to improve health and survival of mothers and babies. Methods: A systematic review of observational and qualitative studies to identify factors and barriers associated with delays in health care seeking. Results: A total of 159 observational and qualitative studies met the inclusion criteria. The review of observational and qualitative studies identified social, cultural and health services factors that contribute to delays in health care seeking, and influence decisions to seek care. Timely recognition of danger signs, availability of finances to arrange for transport and affordability of health care cost, and accessibility to a health facility were some of these factors. Conclusions: Effective dealing of factors that contribute to delays in health care seeking would lead to significant improvements in mortality, morbidity and care seeking outcomes, particularly in countries that share a major brunt of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality. Registration: PROSPERO CRD42012003236.
- Developing countries
- Health care seeking
- Low- and middle-income countries
- Maternal health
- Neonatal health