Maternity services are increasingly required to be consumer driven and more responsive to the needs of women and include their partners. Given the interactive nature of the service encounter it is clearly necessary to examine the perceptions of both consumers and professionals to enhance understanding of service quality. This paper reports the findings of a study, which examined the views of Irish consumers in relation to childbirth education in one health board area. A convenient sample of 38 interviews with primgravida and multigravida were undertaken. With permission interviews were transcribed and analysed using `thematic content analysis’. Findings indicated much discontent regarding the content of antenatal classes with women clearly stating that the educational needs of the new mother in the community were not being met. In addition many women consulted books, leaflets and magazines during pregnancy to gain understanding and inform expectations of pregnancy, birth and childcare. Many of these sources were criticised: firstly as not providing consistent information and secondly as only limited specific information is available on Irish maternity services or Irish women. The findings highlight the need to tailor content of education to the needs of the consumer, to emphasise the different stages of pregnancy within the curricula and to further consider the needs and characteristics of the consumer. The difficulties in providing opportunities for education were highlighted and the need to embed any educational programme within a well-developed staff support structure were stressed by professionals. Such findings from service users and service providers now require to be combined with research evidence to specify and deliver acceptable preparation for modern parents in a regional context.
Intended learning outcomes:
• Understand the educational needs of expectant mothers
• Identify the health and welfare services mothers need antenatally and postnatally
• Be aware of the knoweldge, skills and support required for effective implementation of an educational programme for mothers