A qualitative study of women's experiences of communication in antenatal care: identifying areas for action

Matern Child Health J. 2010 Jul;14(4):590-9. doi: 10.1007/s10995-009-0489-7. Epub 2009 Jun 25.


To identify key features of communication across antenatal (prenatal) care that are evaluated positively or negatively by service users. Focus groups and semi-structured interviews were used to explore communication experiences of thirty pregnant women from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds affiliated to a large London hospital. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Women reported a wide diversity of experiences. From the users' perspective, constructive communication on the part of health care providers was characterised by an empathic conversational style, openness to questions, allowing sufficient time to talk through any concerns, and pro-active contact by providers (e.g. text message appointment reminders). These features created reassurance, facilitated information exchange, improved appointment attendance and fostered tolerance in stressful situations. Salient features of poor communication were a lack of information provision, especially about the overall arrangement and the purpose of antenatal care, insufficient discussion about possible problems with the pregnancy and discourteous styles of interaction. Poor communication led some women to become assertive to address their needs; others became reluctant to actively engage with providers. General Practitioners need to be better integrated into antenatal care, more information should be provided about the pattern and purpose of the care women receive during pregnancy, and new technologies should be used to facilitate interactions between women and their healthcare providers. Providers require communications training to encourage empathic interactions that promote constructive provider-user relationships and encourage women to engage effectively and access the care they need.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • London
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / methods*
  • Prenatal Care / standards
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Qualitative Research
  • State Medicine