Plain language summary Antenatal care is the routine health care of pregnant women in order to diagnose pregnancy complications and to provide information about lifestyle, pregnancy and delivery. Maternal deaths among teenage mothers in South Africa is high and is largely due to conditions that can be prevented or managed by high quality antenatal care. Timely and routine antenatal care is therefore crucial for pregnant teenagers. The way in which pregnant teenagers are treated by health care workers at antenatal clinics influences their clinic attendance. This study reports on the experiences of pregnant teenagers with health care workers, when accessing antenatal care in Cape Town, South Africa. Nineteen pregnant girls aged 13-19 years were interviewed. Some positive experiences such as respectful and supportive treatment were reported. However, more negative experiences were reported, including victimization; discrimination against being pregnant at a young age; feeling disregarded and excluded; a lack of information about pregnancy, health and childbirth; being discouraged from attending the clinics; and mental health distress. In conclusion, many teenagers felt mistreated and discriminated against by the health care workers, which discouraged their clinic attendance. Maternal health care workers in South Africa need to receive support and regular training to provide youth friendly antenatal care to teenage girls.
Background Maternal mortality among adolescent mothers in South Africa is higher than many middle-income countries. This is largely attributable to conditions that can be prevented or managed by high quality antenatal care. The way in which pregnant adolescents are treated at antenatal clinics influences their timely utilization of antenatal services. This qualitative study reports on the experiences of pregnant adolescents with health care workers when accessing antenatal care. Methods Pregnant girls aged 13-19 (n = 19) who attended public health care facilities that provide Basic Antenatal Care (BANC) services in Cape Town, South Africa were recruited. Four face to face in-depth interviews and four mini focus group discussions were undertaken, facilitated by a topic guide. Thematic analyses were used to analyse the data. Results Experiences that reinforce antenatal attendance, such as respectful and supportive treatment, were outweighed by negative experiences, such as victimization; discrimination against being pregnant at a young age; experiencing disregard and exclusion; inadequate provision of information about pregnancy, health and childbirth; clinic attendance discouragement; and mental health turmoil. Conclusions There is evidence of a discordant relationship between the health care workers and the pregnant adolescents. Adolescents feel mistreated and discriminated against by the health care workers, which in turn discourages their attendance at antenatal clinics. Maternal health care workers need to receive support and regular training on the provision of youth friendly antenatal care and be regularly evaluated, to promote the provision of fair and high quality antenatal services for adolescent girls.
- Teenage pregnancy
- Antenatal care
- Sexual and reproductive health services
- South Africa
- Maternal healthcare workers
- Antenatal attendance