• Rosie Das

Do I need to take an antenatal class?

Is it really necessary to take an antenatal class?

Necessary? No. Useful? Yes. Important? I think so.

Not so long ago we all lived in villages, and whenever there was a birth the village would come together. Firstly the women of the village, gathering to be with the person in labour. They would hug, hold, sing, love, feed and support each other at this special time, and each generation would pass down knowledge about birth, and how to ease the baby’s passage earthside. We would have grown up knowing about the intimate physicality of birth, having seen it for ourselves long before we needed the knowledge. Birth was a natural part of life, celebrated by all, with little to no medical intervention. It was accepted that sometimes there would be losses, but on the whole birth was at home, surrounded by people who loved you, all of whom had at least some idea of what was about to happen and how to comfort you during your labour.

Fast forward to modern times and we rarely see births like this in the western world. Birth is more likely to happen in hospital, under the care of midwives or consultants, and your birth team is limited to one or two people. We no longer grow up viewing birth as a normal part of life, and we no longer see it in all its rawness. And we no longer know as much about birth as we used to - we leave that knowledge to the midwives and obstetricians.

This of course has an impact on our birthing experiences - we are far more likely to be afraid of birth nowadays than in the past when we had some idea of what to expect. Now our only images of birth are in the media, and usually consist of someone’s water breaking dramatically somewhere inconvenient, a rush to hospital, some screaming, and then someone shouting PUSH, calling the birthing person a “good girl” whilst they lie on their back on the bed, and then a baby is born - a perfect, clean, baby. If that’s what you expect to happen in your birth, well yes, some of that might happen. But if you take a really good, really thorough antenatal class, you’ll probably have a much different experience - one you have more control of.

Here are some of the benefits of taking an antenatal class:

  • You’ll understand the physiology of birth (how birth happens)

  • You’ll understand that birth is a natural process, not a medical emergency

  • You’ll understand that you have choices about how and where you give birth

  • You’ll reduce your fear of birth because you’ll know what to expect

  • You’ll feel more connected to your labour and birth because you have some influence over it

  • You’ll feel more loved up with your birth partner because you know they understand the birth process too

  • You’ll feel more supported by your birth partner because you know they’ve learnt how to help you manage contractions

  • You’ll learn about the million different birth positions available to you and how each position can be used to ease different parts of your labour

  • You’ll learn about the common interventions of birth, including how and when they are used (and why they’re not always a bad thing)

  • You’ll learn about Caesareans, and your choices for an elective Caesarean (including family centred/gentle Caesareans) as well as recovery

  • You’ll find out what to expect from your newborn - including what they might look like (hint, they won’t be squeaky clean when they come out!) and what they need from you

Sounds pretty good right? Obviously there are loads of choices of antenatal classes out there - in person, online, pre-recorded, book based and so on. My advice is to look for one that is full and comprehensive, and unbiased. If money is tight, the NHS run free classes. [the password is TAMAR btw] And everyone knows the NCT run antenatal classes. But did you know there are lots of smaller organisations and individuals who also offer classes, including your local doulas?

Yup, I offer a variety of antenatal classes and workshops. The best thing about my classes is that they are totally customisable to you, especially if you book a private class. Yes we’ll cover the basic curriculum, but you get to choose the extra bits that are important to you. So if you really want to practise labour positions, we can do that. Want to learn what happens during a Caesarean? We’ll spend more time looking at that. And if you have questions about birth that no one else has answered, now’s your chance to ask them.

Here's what other people say about my classes:

To read more about my classes, click here or email me, rosie@theplymouthdoula.com .

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