African Journal of Reproductive Health

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Barriers to antenatal care in an urban community in the Gambia: an in-depth qualitative interview study

Susan P. Laing, Smruti V. Sinmyee, Khizar Rafique, Helen E. Smith, Max J. Cooper


This qualitative study investigated the barriers to obtaining access to antenatal care in a small, urban government-supported health centre in the Gambia. It thus addresses an important issue related to maternal health and the prevention of maternal deaths. In-depth interviews were conducted with 25 pregnant women, 13 healthcare workers and 9 male partners. Three areas were identified for study: recognition and acknowledgment of pregnancy, recognition of the need for care and practical barriers to attendance. Intentional concealment of early pregnancy was common to avoid adverse social consequences or for fear that malign interventions would cause a miscarriage. In the absence of symptoms many women considered it unnecessary to attend the antenatal clinic until well into the second trimester. Practical barriers to attendance included conflicting domestic demands and the attitude of some healthcare workers. Access to antenatal care in the Gambia throughout pregnancy should be considered in a stepwise fashion and barriers to care were identified at each stage. Interviews with male partners and health workers highlighted their key role.

Keywords: Access, antenatal care, health services, qualitative, Gambia, Africa
AJOL African Journals Online