Open Access Open Badges Research article

Getting more than they realized they needed: a qualitative study of women's experience of group prenatal care

Deborah A McNeil12*, Monica Vekved13, Siobhan M Dolan4, Jodi Siever1, Sarah Horn13 and Suzanne C Tough35

Author affiliations

1 Public Health Innovation and Decision Support, Population and Public Health, Alberta Health Services, Southport Atrium, 10101 Southport Road SW, Calgary, Alberta T2W 3N2, Canada

2 Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Aberta T2N 1 N4, Canada

3 Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 2888 Shaganappi Trail NW, Calgary, Aberta T3B 6A8, Canada

4 Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center, Mazer 634, 1300 Morris Park Avenue, Bronx, NY 10461, USA

5 Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, 3280 Hospital Drive NW, Calgary, Aberta T2N 4Z6, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:17  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-17

Published: 21 March 2012



Pregnant women in Canada have traditionally received prenatal care individually from their physicians, with some women attending prenatal education classes. Group prenatal care is a departure from these practices providing a forum for women to experience medical care and child birth education simultaneously and in a group setting. Although other qualitative studies have described the experience of group prenatal care, this is the first which sought to understand the central meaning or core of the experience. The purpose of this study was to understand the central meaning of the experience of group prenatal care for women who participated in CenteringPregnancy through a maternity clinic in Calgary, Canada.


The study used a phenomenological approach. Twelve women participated postpartum in a one-on-one interview and/or a group validation session between June 2009 and July 2010.


Six themes emerged: (1) "getting more in one place at one time"; (2) "feeling supported"; (3) "learning and gaining meaningful information"; (4) "not feeling alone in the experience"; (5) "connecting"; and (6) "actively participating and taking on ownership of care". These themes contributed to the core phenomenon of women "getting more than they realized they needed". The active sharing among those in the group allowed women to have both their known and subconscious needs met.


Women's experience of group prenatal care reflected strong elements of social support in that women had different types of needs met and felt supported. The findings also broadened the understanding of some aspects of social support beyond current theories. In a contemporary North American society, the results of this study indicate that women gain from group prenatal care in terms of empowerment, efficiency, social support and education in ways not routinely available through individual care. This model of care could play a key role in addressing women's needs and improving health outcomes.

Canada; Prenatal care; Pregnant women; Women's health; Social support