The importance of face to face, group antenatal education classes for first time mothers: A qualitative study

Helen Spiby, Jane Stewart, Kim Watts, Anita J. Hughes, Pauline Slade

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    OBJECTIVES To explore and understand perspectives of women expecting their first child and why they wanted to attend NHS antenatal education. This included what worries and concerns they wanted to be addressed and why this would be beneficial. It also included what they wanted their partners to be able to gain from attending classes. DESIGN A longitudinal qualitative study using Template Analysis was undertaken with data collection during pregnancy and postpartum. A semi-structured topic guide was used to guide data collection, either via focus groups or one to one interviews which were audio recorded and transcribed. SETTING National Health Service Trusts providing maternity services to women for labour and birth, purposively selected to allow the perspectives of specific groups of women to be included. PARTICIPANTS Women expecting their first child from one of three groups: Women from the general population aged 20 years or more, women from ethnic minority groups and young women aged 16 to 19 years. FINDINGS Eighty-two pregnant women participated. Three substantive themes are reported: the search for information, the functions of antenatal classes, and the specific information desired. Women wanted to attend NHS antenatal education to access trustworthy information that would reassure, increase confidence, and help them feel prepared. Women wanted to meet others in the same situation to help normalise concerns and offer the potential for ongoing relationships. Classes were seen as a way to help partners engage more fully with the transition to parenthood. Specific information required and shared by all groups was around understanding the stages of labour, managing labour, and common interventions. CONCLUSIONS Access to a wide range of information increases women's anxieties about labour that women want addressed through antenatal education. However, antenatal classes serve broader functions beyond information- giving and women anticipate that attending antenatal classes will address both their own and their partners' needs. IMPLICATIONS Service providers should ensure their antenatal education provision provides the information required and is structured in a way that enables women to develop relationships and supports partners' engagement in the transition to parenthood.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 25 Jun 2022


    • Antenatal education
    • Childbirth preparation
    • First time mothers
    • Maternity Services
    • Mental wellbeing
    • Qualitative research


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