WHO defines ANC as screening for health and socio-economic conditions likely to increase the possibility of specific adverse pregnancy outcomes; providing therapeutic interventions known to be effective; and educating pregnant women about planning for safe birth; emergencies during pregnancy and how to deal with them. In order to maximise the potential benefits a specific programme of 4 visits; known as focused ante natal care; is recommended.
The effectiveness of ANC is often measured in terms of coverage which is seen as an indicator of access and utilisation of services: Percentage of women who used antenatal care provided by skilled health personnel for reasons related to pregnancy either once or four times during pregnancy as a percentage of live births in a given time period (www.who.int/whosis/whostat2006AntenatalCareCoverage.pdf; http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.REPWOMEN39?lang=en). This indicator does not measure the quality and effectiveness of the services provided. HMIS in some less developed countries do not capture whether all 4 recommended visits were undertaken at the recommended stage of pregnancy