The effectiveness of relaxation classes for childbirth questioned

Published 2009-05-27 00:00. Updated 2013-11-26 10:29

New research reveals how specialist pre-pregnancy preparation for women and their partners is no different from the standard classes offered at antenatal clinics.

In the study by the Department for Woman and Child Health at Karolinska Institutet, 1,087 first-time mothers and 1,064 of their partners took part. They were recruited from across Sweden and randomised into two groups and attended specifically-tailored antenatal classes.

The Natural group focused on natural childbirth training where women and their partners were taught psychoprophalxis (relaxation, breathing and psychological coping techniques). The Standard care group were provided with the instruction in childbirth and parenting, modelled on the standard Swedish antenatal education programme.

Researchers found that the experiences of childbirth and stress were similar in the two groups. The epidural rate was 52% and the spontaneous vaginal birth rate was 66% in both groups. The caesarean section rate was 20% in the Natural group and 21.5% in the Standard group. There were also no statistically significant differences between the groups in the satisfaction of the childbirth experience or postnatal parental stress (measured at three months).

Researchers conclude that natural childbirth preparation, including prophylactic training, does not reduce the need for epidural analgesia or improve the birth experience, when compared to standard antenatal instruction. Furthermore they conclude that inclusion of parenthood preparation (as in the standard care model) has no effect on parental stress in mothers and fathers in early parenthood.


M Bergström, H Kieler, U Waldenström

Effects of natural childbirth preparation versus standard antenatal education on epidural rates, experience of childbirth and parental stress in mothers and fathers: a randomised controlled multicentre trial

International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG), 27 maj 2009, DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2009.02144.x.

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