Morning sickness may have finally cleared up and you’ve bought your copy of ‘What to Expect’, you’re already dreaming of pink or blue and you have a mental list of all the cute bowties and tutus you are going to dress your little bundle of joy in. But how ready do you feel you are for the birthing process and the aftermath of how to hold, feed, clean and care for your newborn?
If you are a first-time mom, then I can say with some degree of certainty that you feel a bit scared or overwhelmed of giving birth and whether you will be able to provide the basic care that a newborn requires. I was clueless. I was an expert when it came to knowing which fruit my foetus could be compared to in size, but I knew nothing about the process of labour, how to make it easy and effective.. or wait a minute, I didn’t even know what labour felt like.
While your ObGyn will be able to help you with all the doubts and questions you have about your pregnancy and childbirth, she may not have the liberty of spending extended time with you in OPD hours just because she usually has a line of pregnant moms waiting to keep her appointment.
In India, most of us have a strong support system of family and friends who swoop in the minute they get to know you are pregnant, with all sorts of advice about what to eat, how to sleep, some scary birth stories and terribly nightmarish tales about early newborn days. While this support system comes in handy to lend us new moms a helping hand with the baby, it does not guarantee that you will have a positive birthing experience. This is where antenatal classes can help.
What is an antenatal program?
A good antenatal class helps pregnant women and their partners to understand all about the delivery process. It is usually conducted in the 7th month or last trimester and covers diet, eating healthy, exercises for fitness and easy birthing. For the actual birthing process, it helps you understand labour and how to manage it and not be stressed about birthing. And it’s not just to do with birthing. Good antenatal classes also help you know more about early baby care – right from swaddling, diaper changing, breastfeeding and more.
Which is why I highly recommend all my pregnant friends enrol themselves in antenatal classes. Here are my top 4 reasons why pregnant couples should choose to undergo the program:
- Helps you understand and prepare for birth –
While pregnancy books and online tools will tell you all about the theory of giving birth, hearing it from a trained person makes all the difference. This person will most often use props and display dolls & videos to explain the process of natural birth and how you can sail through the process. Breathing techniques and antenatal exercises will be focused towards the final goal of a stress-free and happy delivery.
Well begun is half done as they say and knowing what to anticipate and having the knowledge of the tools to deal with labour and delivery is a big step towards a positive birthing experience.
While it is important to continue your fitness regime throughout your pregnancy, it is important to know that you are following the right exercises and doing the breathing exercises in the right manner. This can only happen in an environment where you are meeting a trained facilitator. You will also have access to props like a birthing ball, yoga mat etc. which you otherwise feel may not be a wise investment to make by yourself.
The antenatal facilitator will also, of course, be able to respond to your queries on the spot and ensure that you have complete clarity in your mind about birthing.
- Familiarize yourself with the hospital and the team which will work on your delivery –
It is always better to choose a hospital which conducts antenatal classes in-house. This means that the program should be conducted and managed by your team of doctors, nurses and other support staff. Enrolling in antenatal classes in your chosen hospital will ensure you know them well and build some sort of a camaraderie with them. It is a big relief to be amongst familiar faces and people on your big day in your moment of truth.
And this holds true not just for you, but for your partner too. Most antenatal classes actually encourage your spouse or birthing partner, say your mom or sister to join the program too. This helps them understand the birthing process too and introduces them to the team who will be working on your delivery. This builds up trust and everyone can work together towards the common goal of making your birthing process a happy one.
- Meet other pregnant couples and learn from them too –
It is rare that you will find a pregnant companion in your friends circle or at work. So comparing notes, learning new concepts and gaining information about pregnancy and babies from others in similar life stages as you are most often missing. However, this is allayed by your antenatal program. You will be in a room full of pregnant people and there is no place better than this for you to catch up and learn from each other’s experiences. From home remedies for acidity, to which shop has the best deal on baby clothes and diapers, you can learn it all here. I learnt all about modern cloth diapers at my antenatal classes and no they are not just langots.
Being in a group of moms-to-be with delivery dates around the same time is also great motivation to keep up with your pregnancy exercises and yoga. It is not a competition but subtle rooting for each other to strive at being fit and ready for a natural birth. Being part of a group that believes that c section delivery is not required unless medically indicated, also builds confidence for your delivery.
It’s also a great place for the daddy-to-be to bond and share stories about how the menfolk are handling the pregnancy hormones.
- You learn more than just about birthing –
No matter how much you read or hear from other moms, you cannot be prepared enough for handling and caring for a newborn. Antenatal programs also tell you about how tiny your newborn will be and how and why he needs to be swaddled, when to begin breastfeeding, when his diapers need to be changed. In all honesty, I had seen but never put on a diaper before I went to my antenatal classes.
Many breastfeeding tips for the early days were also acquired during my antenatal classes. I also saw other pregnant ladies there who were clueless that upon birth the mother makes colostrum and milk only comes in by the third day or so. The antenatal classes are therefore highly informative sessions where you learn important skills about caring for your newborn.
Did you attend an antenatal class during your pregnancy? What was your biggest learning from it and do you recommend antenatal classes to your pregnant friends?