Abstract:  Background:  Antenatal education classes offer women information about labor and birth and ways of coping with pain and emotional distress. The purpose of this paper was to describe women's experiences of using, starting, and discontinuing three coping strategies in labor that were taught in antenatal education classes.

Methods:  An exploratory research design was used in which 121 women were interviewed within 72 hours of the birth of their first child. Information was obtained on why women initiated and discontinued their use of three coping strategies (breathing technique, postural changes, relaxation technique) and the reported effects of use.

Results:  The effects of the coping strategies investigated varied widely among participants. Common aspects of care, changes of environment, and use of pharmacological pain relief affected women's discontinuation of coping strategies.

Conclusions:  The implications of study findings for clinical practice include the need for caregivers to provide women with accurate information about the effects of coping strategies and to be alert to aspects of care that may disrupt women's use of strategies. (BIRTH 30:3 September 2003)