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‘Welcome to the World’: parents' experiences of an antenatal nurturing programme

02 June 2019
18 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 6

Abstract

Background

The transition to parenthood lays the foundations for the parent-infant relationship, but can also be a time of increased vulnerability. It can therefore be a suitable time for interventions to increase parents' emotional wellbeing and support couple relationships as well as the relationship with the baby.

Aims

This study aimed to explore the experiences of attendees at an antenatal nurturing programme and its effect on their experiences of the early postnatal period.

Methods

A total of 36 attendees took part in six focus groups across the UK.

Findings

Participants' experiences of the programme were very positive; it provided knowledge and skills and gave participants a safe space in which to explore feelings and concerns. The programme encouraged participants to nurture themselves, as well as their babies and their relationships. Some groups formed strong support networks, while others did not.

Conclusion

Participants felt they had benefitted from the programme, particularly in terms of their emotional wellbeing and couple relationships.

Becoming a parent is a significant transition, and is characterised by challenges as well as opportunities. New demands and responsibilities can increase emotional vulnerability and may strain couple relationships. Furthermore, the foundations for the parent-infant relationship are laid during pregnancy (Dubber et al, 2015) and parental attitudes towards the baby, and the quality of interactions between parent and infant can have a long-lasting impact on children's cognitive and emotional development (Meins, 2013).

The transition to parenthood can also be an opportunity for growth and development. Relevant information, realistic expectations and a sense of feeling prepared can create a positive transition to parenthood, as do effective coping strategies (Meleis et al, 2000). These are often central to antenatal education programmes. Although the focus of these programmes has traditionally been on preparation for labour and birth, and practical care of the newborn baby, there has been an increased recognition over the past two decades of the importance of preparing expectant parents for the impact of parenthood on their emotional wellbeing and on the couple relationship, and laying the foundations of a positive parent-infant relationship (Schrader McMillan et al, 2009). Pregnancy is considered a ‘critical time of learning’ (Svensson et al, 2008:40) and therefore an opportunity to support individuals in making behaviour changes, including building positive parent-infant relationships, constructive communication between partners, and caring for one's own wellbeing (Lawson and Flocke, 2009).

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