With an emphasis on a small number of fixed and targeted sessions that address the specific needs of pregnant women living in areas of the world with heightened health alerts, focused antenatal care seeks to optimize the time that a healthcare provider gives to women who have limited access to medical care during pregnancy. The aim of such programs is to address the reality of limited resources while improving women's chance for healthy birth outcomes.
The objective of focused antenatal care is to help women through normal pregnancies. This is done through targeted visits, discussions revolving around the promotion of health and prevention of disease, as well as early detection and treatment of conditions in preparation for birth and any complications. The program assists pregnant women in choosing skilled birth attendants and developing a plan for both normal births and emergencies. Women in areas of high prevalence of disease are given additional services to address health risks such as sexually transmitted infections, HIV, AIDS, malaria and iodine deficiency.
The operative basis of focused antenatal care is that the attention is personalized to the woman in question and tailored to her specific background, medical history, beliefs and lifestyle. She can also expect an environment that is receptive to her, her partner and her cultural traditions. Moreover, such care is integrated into the existing formal healthcare service and covers a diverse spectrum of health issues, from HIV testing to malaria detection, nutrition and family planning.
Inclusive in a focused antenatal program are routine interventions such as immunization against tetanus and supplementation and counseling against iron deficiency and anemia. In countries where malaria and hookworm are problems, women are also advised on preventing anemia stemming from these conditions.
Implementing focused antenatal care programs has been shown in the field to be both feasible and adequate for participants. The Population Council examined the use of focused antenatal care in South Africa, Ghana and Kenya in 2007 and found that the programs provided fair coverage and continuity of care. However, roadblocks to their implementation included high staff turnover, shortage of necessary supplies and lack of comprehensive training for staff. Thus, focused antenatal care still has room for improvement in providing quality antenatal care for women in their communities.
- White Ribbon Alliance; "Maternal and Neonatal Health"; Focused Antenatal Care: Planning and Providing Care during Pregnancy; March 2004
- USAID Access; "Focused Antenatal Care: Providing Integrated, Individualized Care During Pregnancy"; February 2007
- Population Council: Focused Antenatal Care: Acceptable, Tricky to Implement; May 2007
- Photo Credit Natalie Behring/Getty Images News/Getty Images