Problem: Childbearing women from socio-economically disadvantaged communities and minority ethnic groups are less likely to access antenatal care and experience more adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Background: Group antenatal care aims to facilitate information sharing and social support. It is associated with higher rates of attendance and improved health outcomes.
Aims: To assess the acceptability of a bespoke model of group antenatal care (Pregnancy Circles) in an inner city community in England, understand how the model affects women's experiences of pregnancy and antenatal care, and inform further development and testing of the model.
Methods: A two-stage qualitative study comprising focus groups with twenty six local women, followed by the implementation of four Pregnancy Circles attended by twenty four women, which were evaluated using observations, focus groups and semi-structured interviews with participants. Data were analysed thematically.
Findings: Pregnancy Circles offered an appealing alternative to standard antenatal care and functioned as an instrument of empowerment, mediated through increased learning and knowledge sharing, active participation in care and peer and professional relationship building. Multiparous women and women from diverse cultures sharing their experiences during Circle sessions was particularly valued. Participants had mixed views about including partners in the sessions.
Conclusions: Group antenatal care, in the form of Pregnancy Circles, is acceptable to women and appears to enhance their experiences of pregnancy. Further work needs to be done both to test the findings in larger, quantitative studies and to find a model of care that is acceptable to women and their partners.