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Introduction: Providing quality antenatal care not only increases the likelihood of early detection of maternal health and socioeconomic factors linked to untoward pregnancy outcomes but also prepares women for safe childbirth and for possible emergencies during pregnancy. Therefore, this study assessed antenatal care received by pregnant women against the national guideline on antenatal care services.
Methods: This descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted at the national referral hospital in Bhutan. A convenience sample of 571 maternal and child health handbooks (records) of pregnant women coming to deliver at the hospital in July and August 2020 were included.
Results: Approximately 1/3rdof the sample had initiated their antenatal care on time and more than half of them had fewer than the recommended number of visits. In addition, 3% of women had their ANC initiated in the third trimester. Among the care practices recommended to be done during antenatal visits, those that required more skill were less often provided compared to those of general history taking and physical assessment.
Conclusion: The antenatal care that pregnant women in Bhutan received shows there is room for improvement, especially to decrease the late initiation of ANC. The policies and programmes to strengthen maternal and child health should move from ensuring accessibility to enhancing the quality of care. In addition, systems that ensure an adequate number of visits and timely initiation of care need to be reinforced along with improving the skills of ANC providers.