Are you getting ready to welcome a baby into your family? Congratulations! Exciting, joyful times are just around the corner. However, if you are feeling a little apprehensive or nervous, this is to be expected. After all, there is a lot to consider and learn during pregnancy: how to prepare your home ready for your new arrival; what to expect at the time of labour and birth, and how to look after your baby in their first few days and beyond.
This is a lot to take on board. There’s a lot of information that can be read in books and on reputable websites. However, these are arguably no substitute for a good antenatal class. This is your opportunity to get the most accurate information on maternity services in your area. They also offer the chance to have your questions answered directly by very knowledgeable, highly qualified midwives or doctors. You should finish antenatal classes feeling confident and prepared.
However, how do you choose the best one? There are likely to be several options available. Here are some tips to help you.
1. Opt for a class at your preferred birthing centre, if possible
If you have chosen where you will have your baby, then check to see if they run classes. Many obstetrics and gynaecology clinics in Dubai run antenatal classes, for good reason. Attending classes with your chosen clinic has three distinct advantages.
- If you attend a class in a hospital or clinic setting, they will more than likely offer a tour of their services to expectant parents. This is very helpful. Being able to visualise where you will go through labour and birth your baby is important. It will help calm your nerves in the lead up to the birth.
- You’ll also have a chance to get to know some of the staff within the clinic. These are the people who will be looking after you and your baby. Knowing a friendly face or two when you arrive to give birth can make all the difference. A good clinic has staff that make you feel welcome and confident that you are in excellent hands.
- Finally, it is much better to address your concerns and questions to the midwives and doctors who will be responsible for your care. All clinics should be following the appropriate guidelines set by the government (in Dubai, these are set by the Dubai Health Authority) and the latest scientific research. That said, you will find that clinics can have slightly different policies in some areas. Knowing your clinic’s particular policies on topics such as pain relief, help with breastfeeding, and more is much more useful to you than generic advice.
It is important that your chosen clinic runs a thorough, detailed antenatal class and not just a whistle-stop tour. You’ll need to look carefully at their curriculum before you book.
Having said all this, however, keep in mind that in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, your trusted hospital or clinic is likely to be conducting all tours and antenatal classes virtually in the meantime to ensure the safety of all patients, visitors and staff. The experience will reasonably be different for the foreseeable future, but the best clinics are doing all that’s possible to deliver the same quality of services and assistance to you during this time.
2. Look for a comprehensive curriculum
When the time comes for your baby to arrive, you should feel prepared and confident. You will need to have an understanding of what to expect at the end of pregnancy, including labour, birth and common interventions made by medical professionals. This will help you feel empowered and ready. It’s not necessary to undertake a medical degree, of course! You should just know what to expect during a typical labour or caesarean section.
You’ll also need plenty of practical tips so that you can properly prepare your hospital bag and your household, ready for your baby to come home.
Here’s what should be included in a good antenatal class curriculum:
Preparation for birth
- What to include in your hospital bag for yourself and baby
- Help with preparing your birth plan.
- First signs of natural labour and other emergency reasons to attend hospital at the end of your pregnancy
Labour and birthing
- Planned c-section
- Methods of inducing labour
- Breathing and relaxation during labour
- Pain relief options
- Birthing positions
- Common emergency interventions, such as c-section and episiotomy
- Your postpartum recovery
- Looking after a newborn baby
- SIDS and neonatal resuscitation
The curriculum covers the most frequently asked questions by parents and the must-know information from a medical point of view. While the thought of learning about some of the emergency aspects of childbirth may be alarming, you should ultimately find it reassuring. A good clinic will assure you of positive outcomes in the vast majority of cases, and that you and your baby will be in safe hands.
3. Attend at the right time
Many expectant parents are keen to learn everything about pregnancy, birth and babies at the first sign that there’s a baby on the way. This is understandable, of course, as having a baby is such a momentous, life-changing experience. However, pregnancy typically lasts around 40 weeks, so there’s no need to rush too much.
Most clinics recommend that you start antenatal classes at about 24 weeks or shortly after. This is a good time because:
It’s the ideal point in your pregnancy
Your pregnancy should be progressing well by this point, and scans and check-ups will have hopefully confirmed you have a viable pregnancy. Twenty-four weeks is the widely accepted point in pregnancy when babies have a reasonable chance of surviving outside the womb, should they be born early.
You still have three to four months of your pregnancy ahead, but you will be prepared if your baby comes a little early.
It will help you prepare your birth plan
There should be various choices available to you during your labour and birth. These could include your preferred pain relief and how you intend to feed your baby, for instance. Learning about these choices at this stage allows you plenty of time to think your options over and prepare your birth plan.
The right class for you
The right antenatal class should help you prepare not just practically, but emotionally, too. It should help you feel calm. It should help you know when to seek help with maternal, fetal or newborn health problems. It should help you feel ready for your baby’s entrance into the world. If you follow the tips above, your antenatal class experience should achieve all that.
Vanessa Batten is a marketing and communications specialist with 10 years’ experience in the UAE healthcare industry and is the Senior Communications Officer at Mediclinic Middle East. Operating seven hospitals and 20 outpatient clinics with more than 900 inpatient beds in the UAE, Mediclinic is focused on providing specialist, multi-disciplinary services across the continuum of care and is regarded as the most respected and trusted provider of private healthcare services in the UAE.