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Journal Article

Mar 4, 2024

Nutrition | Antenatal Care (ANC)

Do timing and frequency of antenatal care make a difference in maternal micronutrient intake and breastfeeding practices? Insights from a multi-country study in South Asia



Despite the established benefits of vitamins and minerals for maternal and neonatal health, global micronutrient deficiency remains a significant concern. As such, the World Health Organization advocates timely antenatal care (ANC) initiation and micronutrient supplementation for expectant mothers. This study investigates the association between ANC timing and frequency and maternal health behaviours, specifically iron-folic acid (IFA) intake, early breastfeeding initiation, and exclusive breastfeeding among married women in South Asia. By utilizing recent Demographic and Health Survey data, this study focuses on married women aged 15–49 in Bangladesh (N = 966), India (N = 89,472), and Pakistan (N = 1,005), specifically primiparous women with children aged 0–23 months living with the mother. Multivariable analysis revealed that women receiving ≥4 ANC visits were more likely to consume IFA ≥90 days compared to those with fewer visits in Bangladesh (AOR: 1.85, 95% CI [1.30, 2.63]), India (AOR: 1.87, 95% CI [1.81, 1.94]), and Pakistan (AOR: 1.92, 95% CI [1.24, 2.97]). Women receiving first ANC in the second or third trimester were less likely to consume IFC for ≥90 days compared to those with first-trimester ANC. While the ANC timing did not significantly influence early breastfeeding initiation, ANC frequency was inversely associated with delayed initiation in all countries. Breastfeeding advice during ANC visits was significantly associated with reduced odds of delayed breastfeeding initiation. Neither ANC timing nor frequency significantly predicted exclusive breastfeeding, except for breastfeeding advice in India. This study highlights the importance of ANC in maternal and child health outcomes. ANC timing and frequency, along with breastfeeding advice during ANC, notably influence maternal IFA consumption and early breastfeeding initiation. These findings underscore the need for targeted interventions during ANC visits to enhance maternal and child health practices in low- and middle-income countries.