Becoming parents is a challenging experience for most people. It brings considerable changes in men and women's roles, responsibilities and identities, and many mothers and fathers see it as a stressful time of their lives. A smooth transition into parenthood, and low stress in the parenting role is viewed by most psychologists and psychiatrists as critically important to positive parent and child outcomes.
Being prepared for childbirth and parenthood may help parents cope with many concomitant situations, and pregnant women are very amenable (by and large) to receiving and acting upon public health messages. Pregnancy is therefore by many considered an ideal period for health promoting and preventive interventions.
Project Newborn comprises three main activities: 1) to develop an parenting intervention in accordance with the recommendations from the National Board of Health, 2) to assure thorough implementation of the intervention, and 3) to study the effects of the intervention on early parenting resources and parenting stress in order to evaluate if antenatal birth and parent preparation in small groups can increase parenting resources thereby easing birth and creating a smoother and less stressful transition to parenthood. This in turn is hypothesized to improve health and thriving among newborn families and affect their use of healthcare services.
Filling the knowledge gap
Antenatal education has been sensitive to opinions and trends and has undergone dramatic changes over time without us knowing much about its effects on relevant outcomes, and evidence of the potential benefit of general antenatal education for childbirth or parenthood or both remains largely unknown. Previous studies have been difficult to interpret, mainly because of limitations in study design and small sample sizes, and many program evaluations do not utilize randomly assigned control or comparison groups. Hence the existing literature is in many ways insufficient to guide the health care system.
The national Board of Health declare that little is known about what birth and parent preparation classes should encompass in order to meet the needs of parents today, but that several studies describe parents wishes to discuss aspects related to the social, emotional and psychological side of parenthood, and how to interact with their newborn baby, in addition to gaining information about the delivery and breastfeeding.
This project is a large scale, individually randomised controlled trial of a birth and parenting preparation program. The program has been developed with input from an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners: Obstetricians, midwives, health visitors, psychiatrists, psychologists, family therapists, and members of the patient organization ‘Parenting and Childbirth’. The development of a comprehensive, theoretically founded birth and parenting program and several professionals trained in this program provides an opportunity to test if birth and parent preparation can promote parenting resources, health, thriving, and use of health care services in the child and the family. Collaboration with leading national and international researchers and practitioners in e the field has been established.