Existing barriers to utilization of health services for maternal and newborn care in rural Western Kenya

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Background: Understanding the existing barriers to utilization of maternal and newborn health care services can inform improvement of care services in the rural settings in sub-Saharan Africa. However, how unintended pregnancy relates to the uptake of antenatal care (ANC) services and also how gaps in the role of the community health workers and health facilities affect maternal and newborn care and referral services are poorly understood.

Methods: This was a formative ethnographic study design to determine barriers to the utilization of health care services for maternal and newborns in rural Western Kenya. We interviewed 45 respondents through in-depth interviews in rural Bondo Sub- County, Western Kenya: Mothers and Fathers with children under 5 years), 2 Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA), and 2 FGDs with Skilled Birth Attendants (SBAs). The data were analyzed using Atlas-ti.

Results: We found that unintended pregnancy results into poor uptake of antenatal care (ANC) services due to limited knowledge and poor support system. The respondents appreciated the role of community health workers but poor government infrastructure exists. Also, perceived harshness of the health care providers, poor management of high-risk pregnancies, and unavailability of supplies and equipment at the health facilities are of concern.

Conclusions: The findings of this study highlight barriers to the utilization of maternal and newborn services that if addressed can improve the quality of care within and outside health facilities. Keywords: Unintended pregnancy, Utilization of newborn care services, Community, health care workers.

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