NHS Antenatal Classes have been cancelled

Last week I attended the MVP meeting at the NNUH. MVP stands for Maternity Voice Partnership. The idea behind the MVP is that service users, representatives and providers come together to make sure that the voice of the service users is being heard, represented and listened to.

In the last 6 months the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) have taken a decision to redirect people wanting local antenatal classes to an online offering rather than ‘in-person’ classes. There is still some ‘in-person’ offering, but it is only for people within a certain criterion, not for all.

This is wrong.

 

 

I have been teaching antenatal classes, hypnobirthing classes, The Birthing Tool Kit Workshop and pregnancy yoga classes for 10 years. At no point has anyone called them a ‘waste of time’, in fact people call them interesting, empowering, engaging, invaluable, and even vital. There are plenty of other private antenatal class teachers around too, who could say the same. So, why is something so invaluable being taken away from birthing couples?

The CCG would say that after their own research and findings the ‘Pathway to Parenting’ classes they used to provide on the NHS were found to be ‘inadequate’ with many attendees not showing up, or saying they felt them a ‘waste of time’. We would say, after 10 years of teaching antenatal classes; classes that people have paid for, many of whom recommend on to their friends, with our classes getting busier and busier, with people paying more and more – this in not inline with our findings. Our findings would suggest that on the contrary there is a massive need for antenatal class support. This leads us to conclude that the content in ‘Pathway to Parenting’ was the wrong content. As opposed to people not wanting antenatal classes per-se it would suggest that people want antenatal classes with the right content.

It has long been a heartbreak of mine that classes like our antenatal classes are not offered to all ‘service users’, otherwise known as parents. Our parent feedback is that antenatal classes promote better, more confident, more enjoyable birthing. The outcome; less interventions on the day, happier parents, and less mental health issues in the long run. It makes sense financially to for the hospital, less interventions on the day means ‘cheaper’ birthing for the NNUH – therefore actually saving money. Also of course, less interventions on the day means happier, healthier parents, more ready to start their journey into parenting.

It is also suggested the right kind of antenatal support may help down the line with other forms of family interventions. For example, postnatal mental health care which is ‘expensive’ to treat, and more importantly destressing and sometimes debilitating for the family.

On my initial raw data gathering from a Facebook post I had these two comments that stuck out in particular:

“Dealing with child protection cases every day of my working life, I think antenatal classes could really help on a number of different issues from safeguarding, to prevention, as well as basic wellbeing and support.” Family Law Barrister

“I am all for reinstating antenatal classes, women are coming in so unprepared! It’s madness!” Midwife at NNUH

As well as all of this. Women, sisters, it is our Birthright to be able to birth in a calm and confident way, walking into birthing feeling prepared with a few birthing tools up our labour sleeves. And birth partners it is your right to be able to protect and support your partners, become their advocate and feel empowered to look after and care for your family from day zero. For you both, this is your birth, make the most out of the whole experience, and for your baby, birth into an environment with pleased and proud parents. Just to say at this point we are talking ALL births, vaginal, c-section, inductions, there is so much you can do to prepare yourself for the experience, whatever it looks like. Of course, if birthing ‘takes a turn’ and you need intervention then we thank the wonderful hard-working staff at the NNUH for being professional and present, and we would hope for some clarity and compassion afterwards so we can accept what happened and move on into our new families life.

Just a note before I close on the importance of community. We should not be isolating pregnant and new parents, we should be sharing communities, stories, information, help, support. Women to women, parents to parents, wisdom passing down. Roughly half of people are women, most women give birth, why aren’t ALL these women being educated in safe, gentle, calm, birthing? And being given some help and advice on how to cope postpartum is invaluable at a time when women are feeling so vulnerable. Humans are social creatures, we need society, we need communities, we need support from women around us.

Think, what do you want for yourself, what do you want for your daughter? The dream; calm and confident positive birth education at school, and a system that holds the space of birthing women. Why is this only a dream?

This morning I was on Radio Norfolk talking about all of this, and I have started an ACTION group. Please find the group on Facebook Ante-Natal Classes Action Group (Norfolk). This space is for real ‘service user feedback’, please contact us so we can make a voice big enough to be heard. If you can help in anyway with evidence gathering, data, surveys, please get in touch. Let’s turn this decision around and let’s provide meaningful antenatal classes for ALL.