An Obstetrician shares her experience of attending antenatal classes

I was a relatively old (34 years) when I fell pregnant with my son. I am a gynaecologist and love my job. I grew up in a family of doctors and my dad is also a gynaecologist. I am married to the love of my life who is not a doctor or in any field related to medicine.


Why did you decide to book for an antenatal course?

One would ask that question knowing that I am a gynaecologist. I decided to attend an antenatal course with my husband so that HE can learn about pregnancy, birth and parenting. Was I in for a surprise!


What kind of antenatal/ childbirth course did you book on?

We booked a six-week course with a midwife and South African Certified Childbirth Educator. (The midwife also has 4 children herself).


What were your expectations of the course?

We had a structured course outline which made us feel that we had a good idea of what would be covered. Pregnancy, labour, normal delivery, caesarean section, breastfeeding, postnatal depression as well as coping with pain during labour. Our husbands had to practice support tools like massage and pressure points so that they knew how to support us during labour and birth.


Do you think medical care-givers underestimate the value of attending a childbirth course?

Most certainly. Care-givers are under the impression that the course covers ‘facts’ (and it does) but it serves a much bigger purpose. We underestimate the power of feeling informed and how much it eases parents’ anxiety. There is great evidence on how feeling relaxed during labour assists labour and birth. Mothers that are more relaxed birth in a shorter period, enjoy delivery (normal labour and via caesarean section) more and breastfeed with greater ease and longer.


What surprised you about the course?

How much I relaxed about labour and birth after receiving the empowering information. I knew I wanted to birth normally but was a little nervous about whether I will be able to handle the pain. The course gave me so much confidence.


Were there things you learned specifically on the course that you could apply during labour?

Absolutely. The thing I learnt most about was how my husband and myself can team up to manage pain in labour. It made us feel like a great team. It not only made us manage labour pain well, it also did wonders for our marriage to do it together.


Were there things you learned specifically on the course that you could apply during breastfeeding?

Definitely. Breastfeeding is challenging, especially in the beginning. The course equipped me with information on how to manage the common challenges and made me feel normal when I struggled during the first couple of days. It also helped that my husband knew how to assist me.


Was there anything that surprised you about the course?

Yup – what great friends we made! Friend we still see regularly.


Would you recommend attending antenatal classes to other pregnant couples?

Without a doubt. I tell all my pregnant patients to attend an antenatal class. There is a reason why medical aids often pay for classes. Even they recognise the importance of good quality information.

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