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Antenatal Online - Midwife classes from the comfort of home

There is no denying the benefit of antenatal classes.  Being prepared for both labour itself and the early days with a new baby makes a huge difference to a parent’s confidence levels, which in turn makes a potentially overwhelming experience a lot easier and more rewarding.  Sadly NHS cuts have meant many hospitals no longer offer antenatal classes as standard, and private classes can be both expensive and inconvenient timing and location wise.  Louise Morrison set up Antenatal Online to make midwife led antenatal classes affordable and accessible at a time and location convenient to the parents.

Having had my first baby only 18 months ago and now expecting number two, I was curious to see how the classes would compare to the course I had done less than two years ago.  To say I was impressed is an understatement, I was amazed by how much more I learnt (even in the first ten minutes!).  I highly recommend Antenatal Online even to those who are attending traditional face-to-face classes.  The videos are highly informative, and because you can access them at any time you can refer to them again if there is something you have forgotten or wasn’t covered on your other course.  We caught up with Louise to find out more…

What was the lightbulb moment for Antenatal Online?
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Evie, there were no free NHS classes in my area so I ended up having to pay for private classes.  I did both a one-to-one Hypnobirthing class and a traditional class run by some local midwives – such was my level of anxiety!   I found the elements of the Hypnobirthing class really useful and ended up going from being prepared to embrace every drug going to wanting a natural birth. In the end, Evie was born in the birth pool at home.  Other mums that I had met on the traditional class didn’t have such a good time of it and at the time I did wonder if it was anything to do with the difference between the classes.

I became interested in natural birth and antenatal education and also concerned about the fact that increasing NHS cuts were threatening what free provision was available.

I was actually on the treadmill at the gym, a rare occurrence I can assure you, and I was listening to a woman behind me talking about some online health thing and it suddenly hit me that providing antenatal classes online would mean that mums in areas with no classes could still benefit from antenatal education.  I was with a midwife friend at the time and she thought it was a brilliant idea – it just went from there really. Though it has been a long journey from there to here!

How do you juggle the business and being a mum?
Sometimes I feel like there isn’t quite enough of me to go round but I guess that’s the same for all working mums!  I actually think I am quite lucky because I work from home and have a lot of control over the hours I work.   I work normal-ish hours 3 days a week while Evie is at nursery or at her grandparents and then I fit the rest in during the evenings and at the weekends when Evie’s dad is home.  I make sure that on days when Evie isn’t at nursery, I spend time with her.  She is only 3 and I don’t want to miss out too much on her growing up.  I feel like I have a nice balance, I am able to spend time with her and I’m doing something I am passionate about.  I am also lucky to have a supportive partner and parents.

Do you see the site replacing or complementing real-life ante-natal classes?
Our classes are comprehensive and will tell you everything you need to know to help you prepare you for the birth of your baby.  In that sense you really wouldn’t need to attend any face to face classes.  That said, I know lots of people go to classes for reassurance, to meet other people and to ask questions of their midwives so I don’t think we would ever see the site replacing face to face classes.  Some people will always prefer to go to a real life class, whereas others are horrified by the thought.   Also people learn in different ways and not everyone will fancy the idea of online classes, but there are advantages.  Real classes are often held at inconvenient times, late on in pregnancy when mums-to-be are tired and it’s hard to take in what you are being told.  Obviously this isn’t a problem with Antenatal Online classes because you can watch them as many times as you need to, at a time that suits both you and your partner or birth partner and from the comfort of your sofa!

What are the core subjects you cover on Antenatal Online?
The site in general covers pregnancy and those first few weeks with your newborn.  There are two video based classes available, an Active Birth class and a Breastfeeding and Early Days class.

Our midwives believe that birth, for the majority of women, doesn’t need to be a medicalised event and that if a woman understands how her body works during labour and birth, this can have a positive impact on her birth experience.  The Active Birth class therefore looks at labour in detail, the stages of labour, how your body works, how hormones come into play and affect labour, and what your pain relief options are.   It’s also helpful for parents-to-be to understand and acknowledge the fact that birth doesn’t always go to plan – the class helps prepare them as much for the birth they might not want, as for the one they do.

The birth of a baby is a special time but unfortunately babies don’t come with instructions, so our Breastfeeding and Early Days class aims to prepare mums and dads for the first few days and weeks.  It covers subjects such as feeding and expressing, sleep & health, bathing your baby and relationships & emotions.

All our classes feature interviews and tips from other healthcare professionals and new mums.

Does Antenatal Online offer a more tailored, personal service if mums have a particular question or concern?
We know NHS appointments are brief and it isn’t always possible to talk about the worries or concerns you might have about the actual birth so we were keen to make sure that if mums [and dads!] to-be did have questions, we could help out with that.

People can buy a telephone support package that allows them to speak to a midwife if they have specific worries or questions once they have watched their class.  We also offer a free service to enable members to ask their questions via email and once the site has grown to a certain level we will be running free live webchats with our midwives.

Is there a community aspect so mums-to-be can chat to each other?
One of the benefits of face to face classes is obviously meeting other mums-to-be who are due at around the same time and sharing your worries and experiences.  We want to recreate that on Antenatal Online as best we can.   There is a community there that is open to everyone but it is early days and at the moment it is relatively quiet.  We need a few vocal mums-to-be to get things going!  Eventually the community will allow parents-to-be to connect with others in their local area and will be the place where we run polls, hold discussions and advertise local baby-related events.

For more information visit http://antenatalonline.co.uk/

  1. Posted by Helen Miller Monday 23rd May 2011

    I am a midwife who runs Bumpsy Baby antenatal classes in Cheshire. I think its great that women and their partners are able to have a choice about where and when they have antenatal classes. They just need to know that they have this choice and that is the hardest thing. More awareness is needed of antenatal education. I run my classes at evenings and weekends and also offer one to one classes.

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