OBJECTIVES: to identify key features of prenatal care in the city of Pelotas, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. METHODS: a cross-sectional study was conducted with a cohort of 2741 mothers, interviewed in the city's clinics, between September 2002 and May 2003. The mothers included answered a standard questionnaire which provided data regarding demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as aspects relating to prenatal care and the clinics attended. The outcome was considered to be either proper or improper prenatal care, the criterion being the number of medical consultations, with six or more appointments constituting adequate prenatal care. RESULTS: it was observed that 77% of the expectant mothers carried out six or more prenatal consultations, but there were shortcomings in terms of the success and management of prenatal care, such as treatment of gynecological problems and education. The risk of not having proper prenatal care was higher among black or mixed-race expectant mothers (RO=1.7), with fewer years of schooling (RO=3.3) and lower income (RO=3.0). This was also the case with expectant mothers without partners (RO=2.0), and smokers (RO=1.5). CONCLUSIONS: the results are consistent with those found in the literature, which depict an inversion of the needed pattern of care. Patients with the worse economic conditions and the least schooling, run a higher risk of receiving inadequate prenatal care and of being subject to the consequences of this.
Prenatal care; Quality of health care