Background. Antenatal care has undergone continuous development over the past decades, but little is known about women's views and expectations. The objective of this study was to explore women's expectations on antenatal care, preferences regarding number of visits and attitudes to continuity of midwife caregiver in a national sample of Swedish-speaking women.
Methods. All Swedish-speaking women booked for antenatal care during 3 weeks spread over 1 year (1999–2000) were invited to participate in the study. A questionnaire was mailed shortly after the first visit.
Results. Three thousand and sixty-one women completed the questionnaire, corresponding to 91% of women who consented to participate after exclusion of reported miscarriages. Checking the baby's health was the most important aspect of antenatal care, followed by checking the mother's health and making the partner feel involved. Seventy per cent preferred to follow the standard schedule of antenatal visits, 23% preferred more and 7% fewer visits. In primiparas, age < 25 years, a previous miscarriage and assisted conception were associated with a wish for more visits; in multiparas, previous miscarriage, previous stillbirth and a previous negative birth experience. A wish for fewer antenatal visit was associated with age over 35 years and unfortunate timing of pregnancy among primiparas, and with having more than two children and unfortunate timing of pregnancy in multiparas. Most women (97%) saw continuity of midwife caregiver during pregnancy as important.
Conclusion. Women had high expectations of antenatal care in terms of possibilities of preventing fetal morbidity, a result that may reflect worries about the baby's health rather than a realistic assessment of the potential of antenatal care procedures. One-third of the women wanted more or fewer visits than the standard schedule, and special attention should be paid to women with a previous stillbirth, miscarriage or a negative birth experience. The Swedish system with continuity of midwife carer during pregnancy was much appreciated.