Background: The use of maternal health services can markedly promote the maternal health and safety, but there has been a low utilization rate in the ethnic rural areas of western China. Furthermore, the correlated factors have not been well studied. This study aims to assess factors related to the use of maternal health services among women in these areas.
Methods: A cross-sectional study of 68 villages in China’s western Sichuan province was conducted in September 2014. All qualifying women from each sample village were involved. A structured questionnaire was administrated in households through face-to-face interviews by trained enumerators to obtain information of use of maternal health services and related factors. Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to evaluate the direct and indirect relationships between use of maternal health services and correlated factors.
Results: A total of 760 women from 68 villages were enrolled. The proportion of antenatal care (ANC), hospital delivery and postpartum visits were 68.94, 48.29 and 28.42% respectively. The SEM analysis demonstrated that social economic status (SES) (β= − 0.75, β< 0.01), ANC (β=0.13, β< 0.01), and time from home to the nearest hospital (β= − 0.09, β< 0.05), were positively correlated to hospital delivery and postpartum care visits, while maternal care knowledge and perceived quality of hospital care did not have direct correlation. For ANC, SES (β= − 0.36, β< 0.01), time from home to the nearest hospital (β= − 0.13, β< 0.05), knowledge on maternal care (β=0.12, β< 0.01) and perceived quality of hospital care (β=0.10, β< 0.01) were all directly correlated factors. Treating ANC as an intermediate variable showed the indirect relationship that perceived quality of hospital care (β=0.01, β< 0.01) and maternal care knowledge (β=0.02, β< 0.01) had with hospital delivery and postpartum care rates.
Conclusions: Use of maternal health services is low among women in ethnic rural areas. ANC has important direct and intermediate effects on subsequent use of hospital delivery and postpartum care. Improving ANC behavior should be a priority of maternal health care reforms. Given the long travel times for these women, reforms must also prioritize breaking down practical barriers that prevent this population from accessing care.
Keywords: Maternal health services, Antenatal care, Ethnic areas, Western China