Are antenatal classes really necessary during pregnancy? Modern Mum’s Editor, Debbie Orme, certainly thinks so!
When it comes to giving birth, ignorance is definitely not bliss! Knowing what is happening and what you should be doing is the only way to get through the process calmly. You want to enjoy bringing your baby into the world, and not knowing what’s happening to your body will only create fear instead of calm.
And that’s why antenatal classes are so important towards the end of your pregnancy. Attending a series of anywhere between three and eight sessions – as most classes are – will not only provide an opportunity for you to source the necessary information, but will also enable you to ask trained midwives questions which you may feel embarrassed asking your GP – especially if your GP is a man.
I remember when I was first pregnant hearing the words ‘antenatal class’ mentioned and thinking ‘nope, not for me’. After all, I could find any information that I needed from the internet or from the midwives who were supporting me at my local GP surgery, so why, I wondered, did I need to run to the hospital for four Wednesday evenings, wasting time that could be used so much more productively?
At around the eight-month mark, however, I was talked into attending by a friend, who was singing the praises of antenatal classes and so, the following Wednesday found me – accompanied by my partner – sitting in a hospital room prepared to be, well, if not exactly bored out of my skull, at the very least totally underwhelmed by the whole experience.
How wrong I was and how glad I am that I went along!
For the next four weeks, I, my partner and the other couples who were there, laughed, ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ in unison, and were totally grossed out by the sight of a baby-sized plastic doll being pushed through a tiny plastic pelvis! Eeek!
I don’t think there was one aspect of pregnancy and birth that we didn’t cover over the course. From healthy eating to breathing exercises; from relaxation techniques to pregnancy emotions; from the actual birth process to different types of pain relief and from the benefits of breastfeeding to how to install your car seat when taking baby home – the midwives covered it all. (I have to admit though that one of our favourite topics was how to recognise when labour started and when it was time to go to the hospital, as I think many of us at that stage were still having nightmares about the ‘mad dash’ so beloved by sitcoms and films!)
While they were brilliant mines of information, however, the antenatal classes were so much more than that. Over the course of the four weeks, we all became a ‘pregnancy community’ and, in fact, I actually met two other expectant mothers at the class, who subsequently became close friends. In addition to feeling some sort of unity and commonality with other women who were going through this experience for the first time, I discovered that these other mums to be had the same worries and fears that I did but, rather than keep them under cover, as I had been doing, I was able to voice them in this room without any fear of ridicule or embarrassment. The midwives who facilitated the classes were, of course, excellent. After all, they deal with the same anxieties and worries day in and day out with pregnant women and took everything in their stride.
The fact that my overriding memory of the series of classes is of laughter and fun says it all…