Background: Early initiation of the first antenatal care visit provides a critical opportunity for health promotion, disease prevention, and curative care for women and their unborn fetuses. However, in developing countries, including Ethiopia, it is underutilized and most of the pregnant women didn’t attend antenatal care visits during the first trimester (early). Therefore, the objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of early initiation of antenatal care visits and its determinants among reproductive-age women in Ethiopia.
Methods: A secondary data analysis was done based on the 2019 intermediate Ethiopian demographic health survey. The data were weighted by sampling weight for probability sampling and non-response to restore the representativeness of the data and have valid statistical estimates. Then, a total weighted sample of 2,935 women aged 15-49 years who gave birth in the five years preceding the survey and who had antenatal care visits for their last child was included. A multilevel mixed-effects logistic regression model was fitted to examine the determinants of early initiation of first antenatal care visits. Finally, statistical significance was declared at a p-value < 0.05.
Results: In this study, the overall magnitude of early initiation of the first antenatal care visit was 37.4% (95%CI: 34.6-40.2%). Women who attend higher education (AOR = 2.26: 95%CI; 1.36-3.77), medium wealth status (AOR = 1.80: 95%CI; 1.17-2.76), richer wealth status (AOR = 1.86: 95%CI; 1.21, 2.85), richest wealth status (AOR = 2.34: 95%CI; 1.43-3.83), living in Harari region (AOR = 2.24: 95%CI; 1.16-4.30), and living at Dire-Dawa city (AOR = 2.24: 95%CI; 1.16-4.30) were higher odds of early initiation of first ANC visits. However, women who were rural resident (AOR = 0.70: 95%CI; 0.59-0.93), household headed by male (AOR = 0.87: 95%CI; 0.72, 0.97), having ≥ 5 family size (AOR = 0.71: 95%CI; 0.55-0.93), and living in SNNPRs (AOR = 0.44: 95%CI; 0.23-0.84) were lower odds of early initiation of first ANC visits.
Conclusion: The prevalence of early initiation of first antenatal care remains low in Ethiopia. Women’s education, residence, wealth status, household head, having ≥ 5 family sizes, and region were determinants of early initiation of first antenatal care visits. Improving female education and women’s empowerment through economic transitions with special attention given to rural and SNNPR regional state residents could maximize the early initiation of first antenatal care visits. Furthermore, to increase early antenatal care uptake, these determinants should be considered when designing new policies or updating policies and strategies on antenatal care uptake to help increase early attendance, which can help in the reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality and to achieve sustainable development goals 3 by 2030.