by Jackie Whitford
“I’m pregnant with my first baby and all is going well. My sister has just had a baby and has told me all about it and given me the books she found useful. I think I have all the information and support I need.” I’ve heard this sort of viewpoint expressed ever since I started holding antenatal classes (over 40 years ago) but now followed by… “And of course I can get any other information from the internet!” So why indeed would you need an antenatal class?
Firstly, you will meet a group of women and their partners who are at the same stage in their lives and chances are you will meet your new friendship and support group. My own antenatal class pals are still great friends, meeting up regularly some four decades later!
Early parenthood is a time of big changes and transitions (like starting school or leaving home) and it is great to meet others on the same journey sharing all its excitement and uncertainty. My antenatal classes usually form their own WhatsApp groups – it’s good to chat to someone else who is in exactly the same boat when you are doing a feed at three o’clock in the morning!
Secondly, regardless of what worked (or didn’t) for your sister/friend/mum, labour and birth are as individual as you are. What was OK for them, may well not be for you. A good class will set out your choices. It should give you knowledge, skills and confidence as to where you have your baby and the options available to you. Through looking at the latest research and discussing with others, you can choose what feels right for you – whether it’s an elective caesarean or a hypnobirth.
A good antenatal class should also prepare you for Plan B – what if your labour doesn’t go as you had hoped? In a recent class, one of the women had planned and booked in for an elective caesarean. She was attending classes to make local friends and wasn’t really engaged with discussions about physiological labour. However, her baby decided to make an early and rapid entry into the world. She said, “Although I was shocked, it’s not what I had planned, I knew what to do. Somewhere I could hear you saying breathe out, relax, you can do this.” Labour and birth can be unpredictable and you need to be knowledgeable and confident to cope with all possible variations.
I would recommend choosing a class that runs once a week over five or more weeks ideally to start from week 30 or 32 of your pregnancy. This gives you a chance to really get to know others in your group and a chance to practice the many comfort techniques introduced plus plenty of time for questions. Ideally your class will be run by someone with a breadth of experience both personally and professionally and be committed to supporting you in the birth experience that you want.
“I think attending a good antenatal class will prove to be one of your best decisions, with the benefits of ongoing support and friendship.”
Jackie Whitford runs Birth Wise classes in Lewes and Henfield. For further details please visit www.birth-wise.co.uk