Maternal health and maternal health service utilization among female sex workers: A scoping review

Brandi E. Moore, Lauren Govaerts, Farzana Kapadia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: High proportions of female sex workers (FSWs) become pregnant and have children. Many FSWs are at increased risk of maternal health complications due to factors such as poverty, violence, and healthcare barriers. Despite this, FSWs’ maternal health and use of maternal health services (MHS) receive limited attention. Objectives: The objectives of this scoping review are to (1) synthesize existing data on FSWs’ maternal health and MHS utilization and (2) assess the state of peer-reviewed literature on FSWs’ maternal health in regard to methodological approaches and reported outcomes. Eligibility criteria: Included articles were peer-reviewed, published in English, and reported empirical data on FSWs for outcomes related to antenatal care, pregnancy, and labor complications, postnatal and delivery care, and/or barriers to MHS. Sources of evidence: Article searches were conducted in PubMed, Web of Science, Global Health, Sociological Abstracts, Sociological Index, PsychInfo, and CINAHL Charting methods: Information extracted from eligible articles included publication year, study design, location, sample size, outcome measures, and findings. The “Three Delays” model was used to synthesize findings on barriers to MHS as relevant to phase I, II, or III delays. Results: Eighteen publications met the eligibility criteria. Studies were conducted in 11 countries and primarily reported quantitative data from cross-sectional surveys. The most frequently reported outcome was antenatal care utilization (n = 14), whereas few studies reported findings related to postnatal care and breastfeeding counseling (n = 2). Across publications, there was a substantial range in the proportion of FSWs who reported accessing different types of MHS. Conclusion: Literature on FSWs’ maternal health is limited and heterogenous. More research is needed that specifically focuses on measuring outcomes related to FSWs’ maternal health and examines associated factors. Such work can inform future research directions and public health interventions for FSWs—a population of marginalized women whose maternal health has been overlooked in existing efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalWomen's Health
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • antenatal care
  • female sex workers
  • maternal health
  • pregnancy
  • prenatal care
  • scoping review
  • sex work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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