Objective: To compare the birth process in nulliparous women enrolled in a structured antenatal training programme, the 'Ready for Child' programme, with women allocated to routine care.
Design: A randomised controlled trial.
Setting: A Danish university hospital.
Participants: Thousand hundred and ninety-three nulliparous women, recruited before week 22 + 0. Methods Compliance to the protocol was monitored by questionnaires sent to the women by email, and by data from the local birth cohort database. Data were analysed according to the 'intention-to-treat' principle.
Intervention: Women were randomised to receive 9 hours of antenatal training or no formalised training. Of the 1193 women, 603 were randomised to the intervention group and 590 were allocated to the reference group.
Main outcome measures: Cervix dilatation on arrival at the maternity ward, use of pain relief and medical interventions during the birth process, and the women's birth experience.
Results: Women who attended the 'Ready for Child' programme arrived at the maternity ward in active labour more often than the reference group [relative risk (RR) 1.45, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.26-1.65, P < 0.01], and they used less epidural analgesia during labour (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.73-0.97, P < 0.01) but not less pain relief overall (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.94-1.04, P < 0.72). Medical interventions and the women's self-reported birth experiences were similar in the two groups. We found no adverse effects of the intervention.
Conclusion: Attending the 'Ready for Child' programme may help women to cope better with the birth process. Adverse effects are few, if any.