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Facilitating antenatal education classes in Scotland

02 June 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 6


Provision of antenatal education classes by registered midwives is viewed as pivotal in sharing information and providing health education for women and their partners during their journey into parenthood. The midwife's influence on the overall success of antenatal education classes has been identified in research but without focus on experiences of community midwives when fulfilling this aspect of their role. A study to address this gap using an interpretive/hermeneutic phenomenological approach was carried out. Semi-structured audiotaped individual interviews were transcribed and analysed by the researcher. The following themes were identified and explored: educator skills and confidence, midwife/client satisfaction and midwife perceptions. Community midwives appeared enthusiastic about their role in the provision of antenatal education classes, which facilitated the development of trusting relationships between women and the midwives. Despite expressing personal interest and motivation, some community midwives indicated that a few colleagues disliked or avoided facilitating antenatal education classes. The reluctance of some community midwives to fulfil this responsibility and meet the requirements of their professional role is of particular concern and further exploration of this issue is required.

Provision of antenatal education by registered midwives is advocated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) (NMC, 2012) as a means of preparation for parenthood and is identified by government health policy as a pivotal interactive event during which health promotion can be addressed (Scottish Executive, 2001; Scottish Government, 2011a). Antenatal education is offered in different formats, in varying circumstances and venues—midwives may find that they share antenatal information and advice during every antenatal encounter they have with a woman and her partner (Schott and Priest, 2002).

An antenatal education class can be defined as a gathering of pregnant women and their partners for the purpose of information provision to offer support and assistance during the transition to parenthood (McInnes, 2005). Emphasis is placed on the promotion of health and wellbeing throughout pregnancy and beyond (Health Improvement Scotland (HIS), 2011). Reasons for attending antenatal education classes are diverse; however, attendance may be viewed as a way to adapt to the challenges and alterations that pregnancy brings (Schott and Priest, 2002). The expectations and hopes held by some pregnant women may not reflect the reality of the birthing experience or environment (Eames, 2004). Sharing information with pregnant women and their partners attempts to develop knowledge and empower women to become active participants in the care they receive and with increased involvement it is hoped that the overall birth experience is enhanced (Baston, 2003).

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