Objective: To investigate first-time mothers' views about antenatal childbirth and parenthood education and their contact with other class participants after birth, and to compare participants and non-participants with respect to the use of pain relief, experience of pain, mode of delivery, childbirth overall, duration of breastfeeding, and assessment of parental skills.
Methods: A national cohort of 1197 Swedish-speaking women completed three questionnaires: during early pregnancy, 2 months, and 1 year after giving birth.
Results: Seventy-four percent of first-time mothers stated that antenatal education helped prepare them for childbirth, and 40% for early parenthood. One year after giving birth, 58% of the mothers had met with other class participants. These outcomes were associated with the number of class sessions. When controlling for the selection of women into participants and non-participants, no statistical differences were found concerning memory of labor pain, mode of delivery, overall birth experience, duration of breastfeeding, and assessment of parental skills. However, participants had a higher rate of epidural analgesia. Mothers who were young, single, with low level of education, living in a small city, and smokers were less likely to find the classes helpful.
Conclusion: Participation in childbirth and parenthood education classes did not seem to affect first-time mothers' experience of childbirth and assessment of parental skills, but expanded their social network of new parents. The higher epidural rate suggests that participation in classes made women more aware of pain relief techniques available, rather than improving their own coping with pain. More research should focus on current forms of antenatal education, with special focus on women of low socioeconomic status.