BACKGROUND: group-based antenatal care consists of six to nine two-hour sessions in which information is shared and discussed during the first hour and individual examinations are conducted during the second hour. Groups generally consist of six to eight pregnant women. Parent education is built into the programme, which originated in the United States and was introduced in Sweden at the beginning of the year of 2000.
OBJECTIVE: to investigate parents' experiences of group antenatal care in four different clinics in Sweden.
METHOD: a qualitative study was conducted using content analysis five group interviews and eleven individual interviews with parents who experienced group-based antenatal care. An interview guide was used.
SETTINGS: the study was set in four antenatal clinics that had offered group-based antenatal care for at least one year. The clinics were located in three different areas of Sweden.
PARTICIPANTS: the participants were women and their partners who had experienced group-based antenatal care during pregnancy. Other criteria for participation were mastery of the Swedish language and having followed the care programme.
FINDINGS: three themes emerged, 'The care-combining individual physical needs with preparation for parenthood, refers to the context, organisation, and content of care'. Group antenatal care with inbuilt parent education was appreciated, but respondents reported that they felt unprepared for the first few weeks after birth. Their medical needs (for physical assessment and screening) were, however, fulfilled. The theme, 'The group-a composed recipient of care', showed the participants role and experience. The role could be passive or active in groups or described as sharers. Groups helped parents normalise their symptoms. The theme, 'The midwife-a controlling professional', showed midwives are ignorant of gender issues but, for their medical knowledge, viewed as respectable professionals.
KEY CONCLUSIONS: in the four clinics studied, group-based antenatal care appeared to meet parents' needs for physical assessment and screening. Parents identified that the groups helped them prepare for birth but not for parenthood. The group model created a forum for sharing experiences and helped participants to normalise their pregnancy symptoms.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTISE: the midwife's role in facilitating group-based antenatal care demands new pedagogical strategies and approaches.
2012. Vol. 28, no 4