In the modern age, when you can google anything, doula Donna Bland asks why you would need to attend antenatal classes.
Times have changed, and the first place anyone turns to when they have any question these days, is the internet. However, when it comes to pregnancy and parenthood, the best advice you can get is still from the experts themselves, who have seen and been through it all.
Attending antenatal classes gives you access to childbirth educators as well as parenting experts who can answer all your parenting questions.
While googling facts about pregnancy and birth can provide you with general information around these topics, speaking to an expert at an antenatal class helps you to get information that is tailored to your specific situation.
Another concern with parents-to-be looking for information on pregnancy and birth online is the plethora of facts and opinions available, which can often lead to confusion. And that confusion often leads to fear and anxiety – instead of reassurance.
Being able to talk face-to-face to a childbirth educator who is familiar with the smallest details of childbirth and childcare, can help parents-to-be feel less anxious and more excited about the birth process they are about to undergo. Antenatal classes provide uncomplicated, necessary information to parents-to-be, and are a safe space in which to discuss concerns.
When attending antenatal classes, couples are made aware of the different birth options and where they would best achieve them. In recent times, women have traditionally given birth in hospital, where they were cared for by an obstetrician/gynaecologist.
However, nowadays we have the option of delivering our babies in hospital, birth centres or even in the comfort of our own homes. Women also have a choice as to who will be their primary caregiver – a midwife or an obstetrician/gynaecologist.
Couples are also given practical tips and taught coping skills for the birth. Some of these may include relaxation, breathing, massage and different labouring and birthing positions. You will learn things like the benefits of a doula and who she is in the birth setting. The educator will also cover all aspects of birth, natural delivery and caesarean section. She will give you the pros and cons of each type of delivery, based on the latest evidence-based research and her experience.
She will also talk about pain medication available during birth and when to use them. This can be crucial if you are trying to avoid a caesarean section. Your childbirth educator will help you write a birth plan, so that your wishes around your birth are respected.
She will teach you how to care for your newborn and cover subjects like umbilical cord care, bathing and soothing a crying baby. She will explain the benefits of skin-to-skin care (kangaroo care) in the early days. You will be shown a demonstration of different feeding positions and the basics of how to latch a baby onto the breast.
You will be taught about the benefits of breastfeeding and have all your questions answered relating to it, such as, “Can I continue to breastfeed once I go back to work?” or “Which breast pump should I choose?” or “How do I store my expressed breastmilk, and how long will it last?” or even, “How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?” These are questions that are best answered by a professional with years of experience and knowledge on the subject.
An experienced educator will be able to talk to you about the latest research and treatment options available for different baby ailments, like colic and reflux, what they are and why babies develop them.
And of course, this information is available online, but again, there is so much information that it may be daunting for a new mother and the information may not include the realities of the condition.
Fathers and friendships
Another aspect of attending childbirth education classes is the friendships that are formed, often life-long friendships. Knowing couples in the same stage of life as you can be reassuring and help you realise that you are not alone. Moms can meet for coffee with their little ones and may even start a support group together.
Couples who have attended classes report being more confident and ready for the birth and the care of their newborn. The reality is that most men don’t research all the things that pertain to birth – they wouldn’t know where to start. Attending classes with their partner not only gives them knowledge, but gives their wife/partner the reassurance that they are not taking on birth and parenthood on their own.
Dads become empowered to become more involved and have the confidence to do so. Most men report feeling left out while their partners are pregnant. Antenatal classes are the ideal way to include them in the process and help them feel useful.
How to choose an antenatal class
When choosing an antenatal class, think about what you hope to gain from attending the course, so that you can find a class that best suits you. Look at classes being given in your area to prevent having to travel too far. Decide what sized class you’d be most comfortable attending. Look at what the course covers and whether it relates to the type of birth you hope to achieve and any other aspects you may like to learn.
Most classes are six weeks in duration and are held in the evening. Others may be a weekend workshop or something similar. Chat to other moms and ask where they attended. Nothing beats word of mouth. In short, do your homework and find a class that you will enjoy most.
You will build a rapport with your childbirth educator and nothing compares to the personal touch of having someone with the expertise to answer your questions or concerns, even after you’ve delivered your precious newborn.