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© Cambridge University Press 2007. The provision and type of antenatal care varies across countries and continents, but its general aim is always to ensure that women and their unborn babies remain healthy during pregnancy and that any difficulties are diagnosed early and treated appropriately. Typical antenatal interventions include ultrasound screening, regular blood and urine tests, maternal weight checks, fetal heart monitoring and discussions relating to lifestyle changes such as diet and smoking. In addition, women are generally offered antenatal screening for chromosomal or structural fetal abnormalities and diagnostic testing if necessary (see ‘Screening: antenatal’). Most women and their partners are given the opportunity to attend antenatal classes, aimed at providing information relating to labour and delivery, and some have access to parentcraft classes, aimed at teaching prospective parents about care of a newborn baby. There is also a wealth of educational material available, and women may access this via the Internet, directly from their care providers, in books or through friends and family. In 1997, Clement et al. examined a range of methods of providing antenatal care, with the express aim of meeting women’s psychological needs. They identified three strands of maternal antenatal psychological need, information and support and reassurance. They argue that the professional emphasis of routine antenatal appointments is often on medical issues, whereas women need time to ask questions, be reassured about symptoms and think through concerns.

Original publication





Book title

Cambridge Handbook of Psychology, Health and Medicine, Second Edition

Publication Date



554 - 556