Inequalities in access to prenatal care during the COVID‐19 pandemic: Analysis of a population‐based cohort Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractBackgroundBefore the COVID‐19 pandemic, access to prenatal care was lower among some socio‐demographic groups. This pandemic caused disruptions to routine preventative care, which could have increased inequalities.ObjectivesTo investigate if the COVID‐19 pandemic increased inequalities in access to prenatal care among those who are younger, live in rural areas, have a lower socio‐economic situation (SES) and are recent immigrants.MethodsWe used linked administrative datasets from ICES to identify a population‐based cohort of 455,245 deliveries in Ontario from January 2018 to December 2021. Our outcomes were first‐trimester prenatal visits, first‐trimester ultrasound and adequacy of prenatal care. We used joinpoint analysis to examine outcome time trends and identify trend change points. We stratified analyses by age, rural residence, SES and recent immigration, and examined risk differences (RD) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) between groups at the beginning and end of the study period.ResultsFor all outcomes, we noted disruptions to care beginning in March or April 2020 and returning to previous trends by November 2020. Inequalities were stable across groups, except recent immigrants. In July 2017, 65.0% and 69.8% of recent immigrants and non‐immigrants, respectively, received ultrasounds in the first trimester (RD −4.8%, 95% CI −8.0, −1.5). By October 2020, this had increased to 75.4%, with no difference with non‐immigrants (RD 0.4%, 95% CI −2.4, 3.2). Adequacy of prenatal care showed more intensive care as of November 2020, reflecting a higher number of visits.ConclusionsWe found no evidence that inequalities between socio‐economic groups that existed prior to the pandemic worsened after March 2020. The pandemic may be associated with increased access to care for recent immigrants. The introduction of virtual visits may have resulted in a higher number of prenatal care visits.


  • Hetherington, Erin
  • Darling, Elizabeth
  • Harper, Sam
  • Nguyen, Francis
  • Schummers, Laura
  • Norman, Wendy V

publication date

  • February 10, 2024