Access and use of interventions to prevent and treat malaria among pregnant women in Kenya and Mali: a qualitative study

23 Mar 2015
Hill, J., Kayentao, K., Achieng, F., Diarra, S., Dellicour, S., Diawara, S. I., Hamel, M. J., Ouma, P., Desai, M., Doumbo, O. K., ter Kuile, F. O. and Webster, J.

BACKGROUND: Coverage of malaria in pregnancy interventions in sub-Saharan Africa is suboptimal. We undertook a systematic examination of the operational, socio-economic and cultural constraints to pregnant women's access to intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp), long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) and case management in Kenya and Mali to provide empirical evidence for strategies to improve coverage.

METHODS: Focus group discussions (FGDs) were held as part of a programme of research to explore the delivery, access and use of interventions to control malaria in pregnancy. FGDs were held with four sub-groups: non-pregnant women of child bearing age (aged 15-49 years), pregnant women or mothers of children aged <1 year, adolescent women, and men. Content analysis was used to develop themes and sub-themes from the data.

RESULTS: Women and men's perceptions of the benefits of antenatal care were generally positive; motivation among women consisted of maintaining a healthy pregnancy, disease prevention in mother and foetus, checking the position of the baby in preparation for delivery, and ensuring admission to a facility in case of complications. Barriers to accessing care related to the quality of the health provider-client interaction, perceived health provider skills and malpractice, drug availability, and cost of services. Pregnant women perceived themselves and their babies at particular risk from malaria, and valued diagnosis and treatment from a health professional, but cost of treatment at health facilities drove women to use herbal remedies or drugs bought from shops. Women lacked information on the safety, efficacy and side effects of antimalarial use in pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: Women in these settings appreciated the benefits of antenatal care and yet health services in both countries are losing women to follow-up due to factors that can be improved with greater political will. Antenatal services need to be patient-centred, free-of-charge or highly affordable and accountable to the women they serve.