A study by members of the Maternal Health and Wellbeing Research Group is aiming to better prepare women for labour, in order to reduce antenatal anxiety and to improve the experience of labour and birth.
New motherhood is an important life transition that can challenge a woman’s emotional wellbeing. Anxiety during pregnancy can adversely affect the development of babies and children, and predispose women to postnatal depression. Concerns about labour and giving birth are key contributors to antenatal anxiety.
Preparation for labour, traditionally through antenatal classes, offers a way to address concerns and support women’s emotional wellbeing. However, there are challenges to provision, with classes not meeting needs and disparities in service with fewer invitations to women from minority ethnic groups. The evidence base for antenatal education is limited and does not draw extensively on psychological theory.
Informing service provision
The study, led by Professor Helen Spiby and funded by the Bupa Foundation Medical Research Charity, is exploring preparation for labour from the perspectives of service users and providers in England.
Component one includes both prospective and retrospective elements to determine needs, expectations and preferences of pregnant women, new mothers and fathers. It also looks at how preparation contributes to labour.
Component two includes a national survey of NHS provision (managers and facilitators), and explores the use and impact of a new resource pack.
Component three gains the experiences of midwives providing intrapartum care.
Findings from the study will inform service provision and produce outputs useful to a range of stakeholders.