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Group antenatal care: findings from a pilot randomised controlled trial of REACH Pregnancy Circles

Sawtell, M., Wiggins, M., Wiseman, O. , Mehay, A., McCourt, C., Sweeney, L., Hatherall, B., Ahmed, T., Greenberg, L., Hunter, R., Hamborg, T., Eldridge, S. & Harden, A. (2023). Group antenatal care: findings from a pilot randomised controlled trial of REACH Pregnancy Circles. Pilot and Feasibility Studies, 9(1), article number 42. doi: 10.1186/s40814-023-01238-w


BACKGROUND: Antenatal care has the potential to impact positively on maternal and child outcomes, but traditional models of care in the UK have been shown to have limitations and particularly for those from deprived populations. Group antenatal care is an alternative model to traditional individual care. It combines conventional aspects of antenatal assessment with group discussion and support. Delivery of group antenatal care has been shown to be successful in various countries; there is now a need for a formal trial in the UK.

METHOD: An individual randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a model of group care (Pregnancy Circles) delivered in NHS settings serving populations with high levels of deprivation and diversity was conducted in an inner London NHS trust. This was an external pilot study for a potential fully powered RCT with integral economic evaluation. The pilot aimed to explore the feasibility of methods for the full trial. Inclusion criteria included pregnant with a due date in a certain range, 16 + years and living within specified geographic areas. Data were analysed for completeness and usability in a full trial; no hypothesis testing for between-group differences in outcome measures was undertaken. Pre-specified progression criteria corresponding to five feasibility measures were set. Additional aims were to assess the utility of our proposed outcome measures and different data collection routes. A process evaluation utilising interviews and observations was conducted.

RESULTS: Seventy-four participants were randomised, two more than the a priori target. Three Pregnancy Circles of eight sessions each were run. Interviews were undertaken with ten pregnant participants, seven midwives and four other stakeholders; two observations of intervention sessions were conducted. Progression criteria were met at sufficient levels for all five measures: available recruitment numbers, recruitment rate, intervention uptake and retention and questionnaire completion rates. Outcome measure assessments showed feasibility and sufficient completion rates; the development of an economic evaluation composite measure of a 'positive healthy birth' was initiated.

CONCLUSION: Our pilot findings indicate that a full RCT would be feasible to conduct with a few adjustments related to recruitment processes, language support, accessibility of intervention premises and outcome assessment.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN ISRCTN66925258. Retrospectively registered, 03 April 2017.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data
Publisher Keywords: Feasibility; Group antenatal care; Limited English proficiency; Pre-specified progression criteria; Process evaluation; Social deprivation
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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