Does the socioeconomic background of pregnant women make a difference to their perceptions of antenatal care? A qualitative case study
Socioeconomically deprived women are at greater risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. To counteract this, attention tends to focus around access (equality) of services. Yet access may not equate with the meaningfulness (equity) of services for women from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Without understanding equity we are not in a position to plan appropriate and equitable care. This study aimed to determine pregnant women’s perceptions of the current antenatal provision and to determine if women from the extremes of socioeconomic background perceived their antenatal care differently. Longitudinal interviews were undertaken with multiple, comparative antenatal case studies between January 2007 and April 2009. Cases were primigravida women from â€˜least deprivedâ€™ (n=9) and â€˜most deprivedâ€™ (n=12) geographical areas as identified by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD 2006). The data were analysed using case study replication analysis. Analysis of categorical data from the sample groups indicated they were less diverse than might have been expected in terms of age and education. However in the key variables of housing tenure, potential income and socioeconomic status based on area of residence, the groups were indicative of the SIMD target populations. The preliminary analysis showed that the sample groups considered the initial General Practitioner contact to be less than adequate and the subsequent utility of antenatal education to be based on self perceived relevance. The substantive analysis showed little difference in access to antenatal services between the â€˜leastâ€™ and â€˜mostâ€™ deprived groups but perception of care differed. A key difference concerned the level of â€˜engagementâ€™ (defined as personalisation and active involvement in care, power and relationships and health literacy). Using these concepts, engagement was present in most of the â€˜least deprivedâ€™ group and almost none of the â€˜most deprivedâ€™ group. In comparison with women from affluent areas, more deprived women described less evidence of: personal connection to their own care; shared decision making; and perceived value in relation to the written educational aspects of antenatal care. In terms of the preliminary analysis, the results suggest that utility of educational material may need to be reviewed to ensure it is relevant to specific needs. Without this relevance, key information may be missed. The substantive analysis suggests that for women from socioeconomically deprived areas, access may be a less useful indicator than engagement when assessing quality of antenatal services. The lack of engagement perceived by those who are most deprived suggests that equity of service has yet to be attained for those who are most in need. Future research needs to be directed to the potential reasons that may undermine equity and engagement in women from lower socioeconomic areas.