OBJECTIVE: to determine whether a new antenatal education programme with increased parenting content could improve parenting outcomes for women compared with a regular antenatal education programme. DESIGN: a randomised-controlled trial. Data were collected through self-report surveys. SETTING: specialist referral maternity hospital in Sydney, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: 170 women birthing at the hospital. Ninety-one women attended the new programme and 79 the regular programme. INTERVENTION: a new antenatal education programme ('Having a Baby' programme) developed from needs assessment data collected from expectant and new parents. One important feature of the programme was the recognition that pregnancy, labour, birth and early parenting were a microcosm of the childbearing experience, rather than separate topics. MEASURES: the primary outcome measure was perceived maternal parenting self-efficacy. Worry about the baby, and perceived parenting knowledge, were secondary outcome measures. They were measured before the programme and after birth. Birth outcomes were also recorded. FINDINGS: the postnatal perceived maternal parenting self-efficacy scores of women who attended the 'Having a Baby' programme were significantly higher than those who attended the regular programme. Perceived parenting knowledge scores of women who attended the 'Having a Baby' programme were also significantly higher than those who attended the regular programme. Worry scores were lower but they did not reach statistical significant. Birth outcomes were similar. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: the 'Having a Baby' programme improved maternal self-efficacy and parenting knowledge. Parenting programmes that continue in the early postnatal period may be beneficial.