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Keywords:

  • Safe motherhood;
  • antenatal care;
  • referral system;
  • risk approach;
  • Tanzania

Summaryobjective  To assess whether antenatal care achieves identification and timely referral of high-risk pregnancies in southern Tanzania.

methods  We compared the risk profiles of pregnant women in general with those attending obstetric care and investigated the reasons for seeking care. The risk profile of inpatients was drawn up through interviews with maternity cases and analysis of their antenatal records at the regional referral hospital (n= 415); population-based data on the prevalence of specific risk factors were obtained from entries in antenatal care registers (n= 1630) and from literature.

results  A significant risk selection towards obstetric referral level care was observed only for previous caesarean section (prevalence hospital 6.7% all pregnancies 1.5%P < 0.005) and for nulliparity (hospital 42.8% all pregnancies 25.0%P < 0.005). No significant differences were observed for other risk factors such as previous perinatal death height < 150 cm multiple gestation and breech presentation. Prevalence of the risk factors age > 34 years and grand multiparity was significantly lower among hospital users. Coverage of obstetric care was below 50% for all risk factors except previous caesarean section (91.5%)

conclusion  Despite pursuing the risk approach and very good coverage, antenatal care in Tanzania has only limited effect on extending obstetric care to high-risk mothers. A critical review of the present screening and counselling practices, including a more focused and client-centred application of risk assessment, is warranted.