What are Pregnancy Circles?

The Pregnancy Circles model brings together around 8-12 pregnant women who are at similar stages in pregnancy and who live near each other, for clinical care, information-sharing and social support. The Pregnancy Circles aim to provide a woman-centered, community environment for antenatal care. Pregnancy Circles are designed to be diverse and reflect their local area. They will include:

  • Women who are experiencing high-risk pregnancies, or low-risk pregnancies
  • First-time mothers and women who have had previous children
  • Women who speak English and women who do not speak English (interpreters will be made available as needed)
  • Mixed ethnicities and backgrounds

The clinical content and schedule of appointments provided in Pregnancy Circles remains the same as per the NICE antenatal care guidelines, but the sessions are longer than traditional care (2 hours rather than a typical length of about 15-20 minutes). Pregnancy Circles also involve an additional “reunion” postnatal session.

Each Pregnancy Circle session is facilitated by the same two midwives – continuity of carer and of participants is considered to be a key component for relationships to develop between midwives and the women, and between the women within the group. Continuity may also be provided by student midwives, health visitors, health advocates or GPs who might like to get involved.

The sessions involve information sharing, self-care activities (women are taught to check their own blood pressure and urine), and brief one-to-one sessions for individual health checks with a named midwife on a mat in a corner of the room.

The model is designed to be flexible to reflect local needs (for example, some Trusts may wish to include some specialist Pregnancy Circles).  Decisions about the content and character of each Circle session will be decided by the women who take part (for example, methods of communication, the inclusion of partners, invited speakers etc.).