University Hospitals Plymouth trials group antenatal care

A new approach to antenatal care is being piloted with midwives from University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust next week.

Traditionally, antenatal care involves one-on-one appointments for pregnant women with their midwives. However, a number of NHS Trusts are trialling group antenatal care, whereby several women meet with their midwifery team for collective support.

“In line with the Better Births review, all maternity services are aiming to give women consistent care with the same team of midwives during their pregnancy, labour and postnatal treatment,” explains Melissa Tucker, Midwifery Led Care Implementation Lead. “Here at University Hospitals Plymouth we are looking at different ways that we can deliver this, and we hope to use this pilot to learn whether integrating antenatal care with a group setting will be one way to achieve this, as well as the benefits it may give to expectant mothers.”

Midwives at University Hospitals Plymouth Women with low-risk pregnancies are being invited to trial these meetings, which start next week at the Dell Children’s Centre. Groups of around 8-10 women of similar gestational ages will meet for a total of ten sessions during their pregnancy, held at the same time as their usual scheduled appointments, with each session running for approximately two hours each time.

As well as receiving an antenatal check, each session provides an increased amount of time for individuals and their families to find out about keeping well during pregnancy, as well as providing information about preparing for childbirth and parenthood. A different educational topic will be planned for the group each week, including a chance to meet health visitors.

“The main idea of group setting is to create a more interactive and supportive environment,” adds Melissa. “Traditional antenatal appointments only last about 20 minutes, so having this extra time will really help expectant mothers to find out information in greater detail, as well as providing support through their peers.

“Midwives will be on-hand throughout the session and attendees will also still have time to meet individually with their midwife to discuss any concerns or ask personal questions. The intention isn’t to replace the traditional care, but enhance it.”

It is hoped the new approach will also benefit pregnant women in helping them to plan ahead for their appointments, as group sessions will be scheduled well in advance.

Sue Wilkins, Director of Midwifery, said: “Research shows that the main reason women attend antenatal classes is to meet others experiencing pregnancy and childbirth at the same time as them. This pilot will therefore bring the many benefits of a group approach to routine antenatal care, as well as offering women an opportunity to have their care delivered in an innovative and exciting way.

“Throughout pregnancy local families are supported by many professionals across a multitude of settings. These group sessions will see University Hospitals Plymouth working together with both Plymouth City Council and Barnardo’s, which is very exciting.”