Percent of women attended, at least once during their pregnancy, by skilled health personnel for reasons relating to the pregnancy

The percent of women attended at least once during pregnancy by skilled health personnel for reasons related to the pregnancy

This indicator is calculated as:

(Number of pregnant women attended at least once during their pregnancy, by skilled personnel, for reasons related to the pregnancy, during a fixed period / total number of live births during the same period) x 100

A skilled attendant is defined as an accredited health professional who has been educated and trained to proficiency in the skills needed to manage normal (uncomplicated) pregnancies, childbirth and the immediate postnatal period, and in the identification, management and referral of complications in women and newborns.  This includes midwives, doctors and nurses but excludes traditional birth attendants (WHO, 2006).

A live birth is the birth of a fetus after 22 weeks' gestation or weighing 500 g or more that shows signs of life - breathing, cord pulsation or with audible heart beat.  This cut-off point refers to when the perinatal period begins (WHO, 2006).


Numbers of women who are seen by skilled personnel during pregnancy; all live births in a reference period.

The number of live births is a proxy for the numbers of all women who need antenatal care (ANC). Ideally, evaluators should include all births, but they usually use only live births because of the difficulty in obtaining information about non-live births (Graham and Filippi, 1994).

Where data on the numbers of live births are unavailable, evaluators can calculate total estimated live births using census data for the total population and crude birth rates in a specified area. Total expected births = population x crude birth rate.

Health facility data should not be used to estimate denominators unless utilization is very high.


Routine health services data, population-based surveys. Routine health service data typically lack information on pregnancies or births that take place outside the public health sector, for example in homes or private facilities.


The main purpose of an indicator of antenatal care is to provide information on women's use of ANC services. ANC coverage provides a crude measure of ANC utilization (Rooney, 1992), but it does not capture the number and timing of visits, the reasons for seeking care, the skills of the provider, or the quality of care received. Therefore, evaluators should not infer that similar rates of ANC coverage mean similar levels of care.

Although epidemiological studies tend to show an association between improved maternal health outcome and ANC, most fail to control for selection biases that would positively influence the outcome (Villar and Khan-Neelofur, 2000). The association between one antenatal visit (with care provision of unknown quality) and maternal mortality is weak (WHO, 1999b). However, the finding that women who attend ANC are also more likely to use skilled health personnel for care during birth and that ANC may facilitate better use of emergency obstetric services is further support for the use of this indicator in combination with the indicator Percent of deliveries attended by skilled personnel. Therefore, women's use of ANC is more strongly associated with improved perinatal survival (McDonagh, 1996) and measures of ANC coverage may have a greater role in the monitoring and evaluation of programs addressing newborn health and survival (Graham and Filippi, 1994).


One issue with collecting this data through vital registration is that the data may not be collected in a format appropriate for constructing this indicator.  Frequently the data are episode- rather than woman-based (i.e. the number of consultations performed by the provider is recorded but not the number of times a specific woman is seen). Since women may be seen several times, and may also present at different facilities, this creates the potential for double counting and therefore overestimating ANC coverage. Health service data may also be poor quality and records may be incomplete or missing.

ANC coverage is one of four mutually supportive indicators in the minimal list measuring maternal health service coverage. The other three indicators are:

In combination, these indicators measure progress towards the goal of providing antenatal care, trained attendants during childbirth, and access to essential obstetric care for all pregnant women. ANC coverage is associated with newborn health and survival and weakly associated with maternal mortality. In sum, antenatal care coverage appears to influence newborn health and survival, but its effect on maternal mortality is unclear.


access, newborn (NB), safe motherhood (SM)

Because some countries deem it culturally inappropriate for women to discuss issues related to their bodies with men, women may not be able to communicate pregnancy related problems to male providers. In addition, where women lack access to household resources or where they lack the autonomy to seek health care on their own, husbands or other family members may not be willing to invest resources in antenatal care, particularly if a given pregnancy is progressing "normally."

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