Antenatal preparation for labor

Molly Stout, Jessica C. Garrett, David M. Stamilio

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Childbirth most often is a joyful event that culminates in a happy outcome. However, it is also a major life change for the pregnant woman that frequently produces anxiety, stress, and fear and is associated with considerable pain and a need for substantial physical and emotional exertion. Antenatal childbirth education was developed to better prepare pregnant women for the stress associated with this major life event, in hopes of improving physical and emotional outcomes related to pregnancy. The goals of antenatal childbirth education should include the ability to inform about childbirth, influence health behavior, build the woman's confidence in her ability to birth, prepare women and partners for childbirth and parenthood, develop social support networks, and potentially, reduce perinatal morbidity and mortality. Childbirth stressors are minimized by providing women with mechanisms to control stress such as knowledge, coping skills, and support from others. Childbirth preparation could promote improved long-term psychosocial outcomes by reducing dissatisfaction since unsatisfying birth experiences have been associated with postpartum depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Childbirth class educators may include nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives, doulas, or other types of experienced health educators. Class offerings range widely in terms of content, scope, and style of presentation, but classes generally include the following topics: signs and process of labor, pain coping and relief, postdelivery events, operative delivery, and postpartum care. Educational programs appear to improve maternal knowledge about labor and childbirth and have a favorable impact on the rate or severity of maternal anxiety. Childbirth classes also appear to improve the likelihood that a pregnant woman will be satisfied with the childbirth experience, which may be achieved via an improved maternal perception of control and active participation in the birthing process. The limited amount of data from randomized clinical trials does not provide evidence that antenatal childbirth education improves perinatal or maternal pregnancy outcomes. Observational studies provide evidence that childbirth education may reduce cesarean rate and increase breastfeeding rate and may also reduce the frequency at which patients present for evaluation of threatened or false labor. There remains a great need for well-designed clinical trials to determine the optimal content and assess efficacy of antenatal childbirth education programs.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManagement of Labor and Delivery
Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
PublisherWiley Blackwell
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781118327241
ISBN (Print)9781118268643
StatePublished - Oct 27 2015


  • Antenatal preparation
  • Childbirth education


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