The goal of the Thai Government today is to increase the use of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) services to reduce perinatal and maternal mortality, and MCH services have been included in a series ofNational Economic and Social Development Plans. A minimum schedule of antenatal care (ANC) has been defined, according to which a woman should make no less than four visits to an ANC clinic. In addition, she is required to make the first visit by the sixth month of pregnancy. The three subsequent visits should be made on a monthly basis, from the seventh to the ninth month of pregnancy (Thailand, Ministry of Public Health, Family Health Division, 1987; Khamparnya, 1990). By the end of 1990, the government aimed to provide antenatal care to at least 75% of pregnant women. However only 54.5% of pregnant women used AN C services at that time (Niyomwan, 1991), falling considerably short of the national target, confirming an under-utilisation of ANC services, and women who have complications such as high blood pressure or anaemia may not gain benefits from screening procedures. In this chapter I will describe the health beliefs of pregnant women from Southern Thailand and discuss their use of antenatal care, including perceived benefits of ANC and barriers to ANC attendance. 1
Thai women hold particular beliefs and follow specific practices relating to pregnancy, birth and the puerperium (Rajadhon, 1961; Hanks, 1963; Muecke, 1976; Noonsuk, 1980; Rice, 1994). These beliefs and practices have been passed on from generation to generation. Women are encouraged by their close family members and other relatives to observe several rules to ensure their health and safety, and that of their infant, throughout pregnancy and delivery.