NHS antenatal classes

I just wanted to write a little post about our experience with the free NHS antenatal classes we signed up for via the community midwife team and what they were all about if anyone was considering attending similar ones in their area.

We did consider paying for an NCT course and I also looked into Daisy Birthing but they were a bit too far to travel and we thought the cost was too expensive to justify when we had access to free classes. We only had two sessions, it was meant to be three but due to class size and the fact that no one really asked any questions, they managed to squeeze the last two sessions into one.

Session 1:

This was all about labour. Early labour and what to look out for, when to call the delivery suite etc. We were also given information about pain relief/coping techniques you can use in the early stages of labour such as a hot water bottle, TENS machine and paracetamol. It was useful to be told that if you take any paracetamol at home that you should make a note of when you last had it as they will ask you that at the hospital to ensure you don’t end up overdosing.

We also were made aware of the different pain relief options available once you are admitted to the delivery suite such as Meptid, Pethidine, Etonox (gas & air) and epidural. As we have a midwife led unit (MLU) attached to our chosen hospital, we were given information about what is available if we are suitable to give birth there (no complications, normal delivery with baby head down etc) like being able to have a water birth if we wish. Then the midwife explained a little bit about interventions such as forceps and ventouse, then a C-Section delivery.

Hospital bag minimum contents were discussed and a general overview of what to write in your birth plan (if you plan on writing one) was given. We were also given information about immediate aftercare such as looking after stitches from either a C-Section or from tears/an episiotomy.

Session 2:

This session was all about the post-birth period and mainly about the contact with midwives and health visitors you will have in the weeks after baby is born. In our area the midwives will visit you the day after you arrive home from hospital, then day 5 and day 10. After that you can be discharged to the health visitor if all is well and baby is starting to gain weight. The midwives were very reassuring in telling us that this is the bare minimum that they will see you, but that we can either visit the drop in clinic if needed or call the community midwife team to have someone come out to your house the next day if you have any problems such as issues with feeding.

There was an emphasis on breastfeeding which was quite surprising, I think in our area they have realised that a very small minority of mums actually manage to breastfeed past the first few weeks and that many people don’t even want to give it a go. It’s obviously an entirely personal choice but I think a lot of people won’t even attempt breastfeeding because it has been so ingrained in them that it’s easier to use bottles because then feeding can be shared or that they possibly don’t have the support of their partner to deal with the demands of breastfeeding. I’m actually really glad that it seems the support is there as I want to breastfeed my baby so hopefully if we do have any issues in the early days that the midwives will be invaluable.

They did then discuss expressing breastmilk (either for comfort or to feed via bottle) and formula feeding for those who plan to do that. Although there was a focus on breastfeeding I don’t think there was pressure as such to breastfeed, it was more like a bit of encouragement to just “give it a go” and see how you get on.

Baby weight loss and gain was mentioned, making it clear to everyone that it is perfectly normal for baby to lose weight between birth and day 5 due to loss of fluids and also because everything they do (moving, crying, feeding and even pooing!) uses up a lot of energy compared to when they were in the womb not having to do anything so they do burn a lot of calories until their body gets used to being on the outside.

Overall I think the sessions were really useful, even though I had read most of it in baby/birth books (see my previous blog post for my recommendations) it was still good to hear the specifics for our area and to have my husband there with me as well just so that he could take it all in.

We have another NHS workshop booked in for early July which is actually at the hospital we will be giving birth at, which will include:

  • Pregnancy advice, stretches and exercises 
  • Positioning during the stages of labour 
  • Breathing and relaxation techniques 
  • Practical use of birthing balls and beanbags 
  • Pain relief options including use of TENS 
  • Tour of delivery wards

So depending on how useful that is I might write a little post about that too! Did your antenatal classes cover anything different? Did you find NHS classes useful or have you paid for NCT/Daisy Birthing classes?

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