Social class, ethnicity and attendance for antenatal care in the United Kingdom: a systematic review.
Rowe RE., Garcia J.
BACKGROUND: Evidence from outside the United Kingdom points to several socio-demographic factors associated with late initiation of antenatal care or fewer antenatal visits, but it is not clear how generalizable these studies are to the UK context. This systematic review addresses the question of whether there are social or ethnic inequalities in attendance for antenatal care in the United Kingdom. METHODS: We identified and reviewed UK studies assessing attendance for antenatal care according to any measure of social class, social deprivation or ethnicity. A wide range of electronic databases was searched for published and unpublished studies. Further studies were identified from reference lists, citation searches and key organizations. RESULTS: From over 1300 identified papers, 20 were potentially relevant. Nine were included in the review. Most studies were of poor quality, with only one study controlling for the effect of potential confounders such as age, parity and clinical risk factors. All but one were based on data collected around 20 years ago. Three of the five studies looking at antenatal attendance and social class found that women from manual classes were more likely to book late for antenatal care and/or make fewer antenatal visits than other women. All four studies reporting on antenatal attendance and ethnicity found that women of Asian origin were more likely to book late for antenatal care than white British women. CONCLUSIONS: There is little good quality evidence on social and ethnic inequalities in attendance for antenatal care in the United Kingdom. Recommendations for further research are suggested.