Community. Empowerment. Honesty.
Three words that should be the mantra behind every modern day antenatal class. These words weave together; compliment each other and when put together will support a mother and her baby like a strong pelvic floor.
Here I will tell you why, as midwife, as antenatal educator and (most importantly) as a mother.
Finding a village is such a prevalent topic in today’s mum community. Back in the day families used to be supported by their villages. Grandmothers and great grandmothers use to all chip in with useful advice, a reassuring nod or even a much needed cooked dinner or a hot drink. Now we all flee the nest building family homes of our own. So what does that mean for new mothers? They are left to work out what’s normal and what isn’t on their own. Or at least with Google and Mumsnet at their fingertips. What is a lot more effective (and less misleading) than the internet is a close knit, ‘all in this together’ group of other mothers who are going through the same. Who will be pushing it real good with the buggy during witching hour, awake at the 3am feed, experience teething, nappy rash and all the other challenges that new mums face too. The advice that they give you is invaluable as it is real, straight from the nursery room (covered in nappies and dirty washing) floor. They will reassure you and make you feel like you and your baby are normal, and that is all we need to know as new mums, that it’s normal. Your antenatal class friends will be your longest (and most expensive) set of friends you will ever buy!
Choose ‘Knowledge is power’ over ‘ignorance is bliss.’ Gone are the days where you would rock up to the hospital and be told what you can or cannot have. The older generation speak of stories where they were given pain relief injections without asking for it, have routine episiotomies and have their baby’s taken off them for a wash and a bottle at the nursery on the first night. Now we have choice. We can choose where to give birth, how much or little pain relief we would like, birth positions, infant feeding, who we want in the room (within reason!), how to deliver the placenta. These are some just to name a few.
Yet if we are unaware of what choices we may have to make during labour then this lack of preparation can be overwhelming for a mother already in the midst of contractions and having to make decisions. Afterwards this can cause a lot of ‘what ifs?’ feelings of guilt or negative experiences. Feeling like a choice has been taken away from you can be a really horrible feeling. Ever been on a diet and told yourself that you can’t have chocolate? It makes you feel cross, grumpy and only makes you want it even more. It’s similar to this but on a bigger, more emotional level. Don’t plan your birth. Build your preferences. Prepare yourself for every choice and eventuality that your birth story may tell.
We have come along way from not talking about topics in antenatal class that may frighten a pregnant mother. It is more reassuring to know that if you are advised to have an induction and choose to have that induction then in some cases you can still have a waterbirth, you can always still hypnobirth and you can have an epidural as soon as they start the hormone drip if that is your choice. Speaking about these situations actually bring a lot of relief. Pregnant mothers can think about their options in these situations and build awareness for a plan b. This reduction in anxiety therefore release tension in the muscles. Mothers who are anxious and tense can subconsciously prevent labour from starting. During stress adrenaline is released, this causes the cervix to tighten, it causes blood to be diverted away from the uterus and stops the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the hormone that stimulates contractions. So staying calm about an induction for going overdue will actually make it less likely to happen anyway. Good eh?
Again knowledge is key. Equipping yourself with knowledge increases your confidence that you CAN do this.
Hypnobirthing is extremely modern in todays birthing world. Not because it is a fashion or trend but because it works. Women who hypnobirth are more likely to use less pain relief, be further dilated when first seen by their healthcare provider, have a vaginal birth and most importantly they report their birth experience as positive regardless of their mode of delivery. Hypnobirthing teaches expectant mothers and fathers the art of relaxation. It is a life long skill that you use in all wakes of life.
Hypnobirthing also teaches methods on how to reverse any negative connotations you have (maybe unknowingly) set in your mind about childbirth. Maybe it was something you saw on TV or a conversation you over heard as a child. It can replace these mindsets with images of a calm birth. The mind is a powerful tool. Antenatal class should make women feel amazing now, confident about childbirth and excited about their new roles as parents.
Having a positive birth experience does not just affect how you feel post birth. The benefits are endless, it will encourage better bonding with your baby, more success in choice of feeding and can even affect how many children you will go on to have.
Which antenatal class to choose?
There are many antenatal classes available. Have a look at both NHS (free ones) and private classes. NHS classes are not always available in every area it’s a postcode lottery. However, there are often a vast amount of private antenatal teachers, including hypnobirthing practitioners. Hypnobirthing classes are great. Just ensure that the course contains some advice too on feeding and caring for your baby afterwards. A lot of hypnobirthing classes teach amazingly coping strategies. But what about when you get home from hospital you’re getting through sanitary pads as quick as nappies, your boobs have blown up and feel like an over frozen bag of peas and you’re teary because hubby forgot to put a sugar in your tea, I mean does he even know you at all. A lot of pregnant mothers only see as far as childbirth but after that comes a baby and your new role as mother! It is just as important to prepare for your baby and your new family dynamics too!
Written by Bethany Kitt from The Bump to Baby Chapter. Beth is a qualified midwife working at her local hospital in Gloucester. She is a mother of three children. Beth set up The Bump to Baby Chapter antenatal classes together with her cousin Kate, who is also a local midwife and mother of 3. They both want to change the way women view birth and parenthood through honesty, empowerment and community. Empower through hypnobirthing & teach honestly from their experience as midwives and as mothers. They host regular mum meet ups to bring local mums together.
There website is packed with advice for pregnant and new mothers, competitions and birth stories. Made by mothers and midwives, for you.
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