Original Research

The timing of antenatal care access for adolescent pregnancies in Cape Town, South Africa

Anja Smith, Grace Leach, Laura Rossouw
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 16, No 1 | a4192 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v16i1.4192 | © 2024 Anja Smith, Grace Leach, Laura Rossouw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 June 2023 | Published: 13 February 2024

About the author(s)

Anja Smith, Department of Economics, Faculty of Economic Management and Business Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Grace Leach, Department of Economics, Faculty of Economic Management and Business Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Laura Rossouw, Department of Commerce, Business and Management, Faculty of Economics and Finance, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Late antenatal care (ANC)-seeking among pregnant adolescents threatens their health outcomes, and the health outcomes of their new-borns. South Africa has experienced a rapid increase in adolescent pregnancies during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to the existing concerns around adolescent pregnancy care-seeking behaviour.

Aim: The main aim of this study was to investigate the causes and covariates of late ANC access among adolescents in the Cape Town Metropole, South Africa.

Setting: Three public healthcare facilities in the Cape Town Metropole, 2018–2019.

Methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional study on ANC seeking behaviour was conducted, surveying 202 adolescents. Late attendance was defined as attending ≥ 3 months. For this study, adolescents were defined as women aged 16–18 years. The sample was restricted to adolescents who used public healthcare facilities or who did not attend at all. Data were analysed using univariate, bivariate and multivariate methods.

Results: A total of 50.8% (n = 99/195) of the pregnant adolescents in the sample had their first ANC visit > 3 months. 14.9% (n = 29/195) did not attend at all. Major contributors to delayed care-seeking include poor pregnancy identification (n = 45/99, 45.5%), and a lack of information about ANC. Age, education, and alcohol consumption were significant predictors of delayed care-seeking.

Conclusion: Delayed ANC attendance contributes to negative long-term health outcomes for pregnant adolescents and their new-borns. Improving access to pregnancy tests in the public sector could benefit adolescents with earlier pregnancy identification. Adolescents need to be made aware of their care seeking options.

Contribution: There is evidence of long-term health impacts of late ANC attendance by pregnant adolescents, but there is an absence of evidence on the timing and barriers of late care-seeking behaviour. In this study, late ANC attendance among adolescents was associated with late pregnancy identification and poor knowledge of care options.


adolescent; pregnancy; maternal mortality; neonate; antenatal care; HIV; South Africa; health inequality

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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