How to get the most from your antenatal classes
Knowledge is power…and camaraderie is priceless. Grace Nixon explains why you don’t want to miss out on antenatal classes.
Antenatal classes are a wonderful place to prepare you for your labour, birth and hopefully beyond. Your LMC (midwife or obstetrician) often doesn’t have the time to talk you through the entire birthing process during your antenatal appointments, so relies on you going to antenatal classes to fill in the gaps.
WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?
☙ You’ll make friends for life. Having a baby is a life-changing event, and the people that you meet in your antenatal class are the ones who are journeying on the same road as you. These are people who will also be up in the middle of the night with a hungry/windy/teething baby, and the people with whom you may well celebrate the milestone of your little one’s first steps. Although your other friends may have children, they might not be the same age as yours, and there’s something special about the camaraderie you build when you’re ‘in the trenches’ with others at the same stage as you. The mother of one of my friends still meets up with her antenatal ‘coffee group’, and their ‘babies’ are now 30 years old!
☙ There’ll be opportunities to ask questions. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know. An antenatal class is where you go to learn about all things childbirth, and you’ll be presented with scenarios and situations you have never encountered before. You’ll get to ask questions to help gain a clear understanding, and really process what you might encounter on the day of labour and birth (and beyond) – so when you’re actually in the throes of labour and birth, you’re in a position to make informed decisions.
☙ It will help you prepare for birth and manage your expectations. As I alluded to in the point above, sometimes the best-laid birth plans don’t actually go to plan. It’s important to find an antenatal course that prepares you for some of the more common scenarios, like Caesareans and assisted births, but at the same time supports, equips and empowers you to have your dream birth.
☙ It will strengthen your relationship. Antenatal classes give you and your partner the space and opportunity to prepare really well for birth and life with a baby, both physically and mentally. At Practical Parenting Antenatal we have a big focus on you and your partner’s relationship, and laying a foundation to thrive in one of the biggest challenges of your lives. Of all the years my business partner, Jo Robertson, has been a child counsellor, she says it’s the parents’ relationship with each other that has the biggest impact on the children – either positively or negatively. The more you invest in yourselves and growing and strengthening your relationship, the better it is for your children, and the stronger your family unit will be.
LOOK FOR A COURSE THAT IS...
☙ Practically helpful. Seek out a course that not only prepares you for labour and birth but for life once your baby has been born. Labour and birth could last 24-48 hours, but parenting lasts a lifetime, so find a course that sets you up for the future not just the birth-day! Some important topics an antenatal class should cover are what to pack in your hospital bag, when to pack your hospital bag, what you need to buy (as opposed to what are luxury items), how to change a nappy, how to bath a baby, different parenting styles, and what a day with a new baby typically looks like. (All these topics are covered in detail in our Practical Parenting Antenatal courses!)
☙ Non-biased. Making informed decisions about your birthing experience is just the beginning of a huge variety of decisions you are going to make on your parenting journey. It’s important that you choose an antenatal course that supports and shares information on all types of birthing experiences – from elective C-sections to birthing in a stream singing The Sound of Music! If your antenatal provider (or anyone) is making you feel guilty for a choice you are making, or forcing their opinions on you, think twice about going back. Please know that there is no right or wrong way to have a baby. It’s your body, your baby, your family, your right.
☙ Supportive of dads/partners. Dads often feel a little overwhelmed and helpless in the whole birthing experience, especially in those first few months, as they aren’t the ones actually going through childbirth, and they can’t breastfeed either. But there are so many ways dads/partners can not only be involved but also contribute to the overall positivity of the whole childbirth experience, so find a course that really encourages and supports dads to be practically empowered on their journey into fatherhood.
HOW DO I GO ABOUT LOOKING FOR AN ANTENATAL CLASS?
☙ Ask around. A personal recommendation from trusted friends or family members is likely to be most successful, as they probably have similar tastes to you and are likely to know what is available in your area. Ask them what they liked most about the antenatal course, and why they are recommending it.
☙ Ask your midwife, obstetrician or GP. Your LMC or GP will likely recommend a few different antenatal courses that their patients have been to, and have given good feedback on. But still do your own research, look into each one and make your decision from there.
☙ Google! Read how the classes in your area are presented and then contact them if you still have questions.
Grace Nixon is an Auckland-based midwife and nursery specialist. Go to practicalparentingantenatal.com to learn about her antenatal classes, where half the time is spent discussing what happens after baby arrives!
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 44 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW