Antenatal classes in NZ
First of all, why go to antenatal (pregnancy and childbirth) classes? There are many excellent reasons, especially for those experiencing the surprises, curiosity and fears of pregnancy for the first time. Antenatal classes are like a window into the mysteries of pregnancy and birth. They help you and your partner prepare yourselves mentally, emotionally and physically for your journey to parenthood.
Antenatal classes also give you the chance to meet and make friends with other expectant parents who are in a similar position and will have a child around the same age as your baby.
In New Zealand, Parent Centres New Zealand Inc are the largest and most popular provider of antenatal classes. Their highly knowledgeable and qualified childbirth educators run classes in 50 locations throughout New Zealand, so there’s a good chance you’ll find an antenatal class near your home or workplace (visit their website www.parentscentre.org.nz to find a centre near you and to enquire about antenatal classes in your area).
If you aren’t close to a Parents Centre, ask your GP or local health nurse about childbirth education in your area.
Get off to a great start with antenatal classes
At antenatal classes you and your partner will learn many valuable practical skills and strategies for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. So antenatal classes are a great confident-booster because the more you know and understand, the more relaxed and prepared you’ll be for parenthood.
Through a series of weekly classes the childbirth educator provides information and leads discussions to help you make good decisions about pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care.
An overview of antenatal classes
The standard 12 to 14-hour course that is run over 6 to 9 weeks might cover:
- Foetal development: developmental stages; the placenta and its role; effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking; information on quit smoking courses
- Prenatal care: the routine tests and what they reveal
- Options in childbirth, caregiver, and place of birth: visits to caregiver; birth plans; communication; second opinions, informed choice and consent; special tests; problems, including signs and symptoms.
- Nutrition: the importance of nutrition in pregnancy; meeting increased nutritional needs; nutritional means of reducing pregnancy complications/discomforts; dental care in pregnancy.
- Physical and psychological needs: changes in the mother’s physiology/pregnancy discomforts; psychological/emotional changes arising out of physical changes; changes in lifestyle and circumstances; changing sexuality; relationship changes.
- Pelvic awareness: description of the pelvis and its organs; exercises to demonstrate how your pelvis moves; positions for increasing the size of the outlet; description of the pelvic floor; pelvic floor exercises and perineal massage; optimal foetal positioning.
- Relaxation: breathing awareness as a relaxation technique; relaxation as a life skill and it’s use in labour; enhancing relaxation during labour; role of support people; positions for labour and birth; use of massage and touch; water and heat.
- Stretching and exercise: benefits and cautions of stretching in pregnancy; warm-ups and basic stretches; posture and back care; stretching to include the way the out breath is used in labour; general exercise.
- Pain: physiological and psychological aspects of labour pain; the role of labour pain; ways of making pain more bearable.
- Labour: overview of the complete labour/birth process; Signs of impending labour; onset of labour; first stage patterns; birthing behaviour and emotional responses; admission procedures if appropriate; monitoring of mother and baby; second stage and birth; third stage; initial contact with baby.
- Drugs, obstetric procedures and their alternatives: informed decision-making and consents; alternative methods and self help techniques; common obstetric procedures and their risks/benefits/alternatives; pain-relief drugs and their risks/benefits/alternatives
- Breastfeeding: benefits; first contact with baby; positioning baby at the breast; physiology of lactation; supply vs demand, let-down reflex; early challenges such as sore nipples and engorgement; supplementary feeds; conflicting advice; mother’s nutritional needs; local breastfeeding resource and support; BFHI & the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding; contraception for breastfeeding mothers.
- Postnatal issues: lochia; third day blues; “after pains”; rooming-in; demand feeding; early discharge; care in the immediate postpartum period; conflicting advice; newborn appearance; newborn care, circumcision if appropriate; vitamin K, jaundice, Guthrie test; neonatal intensive care; vaccinations; baby with special needs; safe sleeping; head shape; sleep positions; mattress wrapping.
- Early days at home: ideas for coping, including self-care; tiredness; reassessment of priorities, simplifying housekeeping; sexuality and contraception – variation in needs and desires and the importance of communication
- Unplanned experiences: obstetric complications; postnatal depression; sick or premature infant high/special needs babies; stillbirth; cot death; grieving and ways of coping.
- Well Child Care: including options in well child providers.
Be prepared – enroll for antenatal classes
Like to enroll in antenatal classes? Find out more, including the location of your nearest New Zealand Parents Centre and the timetable for antenatal classes. As well as equipping you with invaluable knowledge and skills, you’ll meet other parents with whom to share the fun and excitement, tears and fears of impending parenthood.