In the current study, the effective content of routine care during pregnancy was investigated from women’s points of view in three European countries: the Netherlands; Scotland and Switzerland.

The participants were 32 women who were either pregnant at different stages of uncomplicated pregnancies or mothers within a year after giving birth. One-to-one semi-structured interviews were used to explore their views, while related documentary material in each of the countries was collected in order to increase understanding of women’s experiences of care during pregnancy. Through the grounded theory approach of Strauss & Corbin (1998), using language units to assess meaning, the complexity and magnitude of the research area was captured. Within each of the units, grounded theory led sampling, data collection and analysis.

As a contrast to previous studies, one woman-centred model of effective content of care for all three countries emerged, which involved three basic processes:

  1. Content of care, which was called “Mothering the mother”, and resembled a mentoring process;
  2. Women’s own developmental process of becoming a mother, and as a link between these two processes;
  3. Creation of a bond with their social environment as well as care providers.

Effective content of care during pregnancy consisted of an experienced mothering person, provision of a familiar environment, continuous guidance towards family responsibility during a woman’s process of becoming a mother, and a releasing process as they took up family responsibility on their own.

Despite the emergence of one model of content of care, cross-national differences were noticed, particularly in regard to women’s autonomy and confidence. Effective content of routine care during pregnancy requires both an effective package of interventions as well as effective antenatal care models, which are based on the choice of care provider, the woman-care provider partnership, involvement of women’s environment and the continuity of the guidance process. Characteristics of these models, including the woman-provider relationship, should therefore be taken into account in the provision and evaluation of care that aims to be effective in improving the health and well-being of pregnant women and their families.