Pregnant women in York will be offered a ‘virtual’ antenatal lesson instead of being able to attend a class.
The hospital made the decision after it reported that less than 25% of expectant mothers attended its antenatal classes.
The online lessons, it said, will be filmed in the hospital’s maternity suite. They will include information about breathing and relaxation in labour, pain relief and breastfeeding.
Parenting charity, NCT, is against the idea: “There is no dialogue with online lessons and they make it difficult to see that there are other choices are available,” it said. “People expecting babies not only need to know information, but how to use it; they need to be given the mind-set to feel empowered and confident in their new role.”
The hospital still plans to hold classes for teenage mothers and those expecting multiples.
Antenatal classes usually start around 8-to-10 weeks before your baby is due, earlier if you are expecting twins. The kinds of topics covered include health in pregnancy, exercises to keep you fit, diet, information on labour and birth and breastfeeding advice.
Janet Fyle, the Royal College of Midwives’ policy adviser, said she was concerned that a lack of NHS-funded antenatal care means that affluent families, who can afford to pay for courses, were being helped to provide the best parenting while lower socioeconomic groups were missing out out. She told The Guardian that the results of a lack of investment in free NHS antenatal classes were clear in the labour wards.
“Previously women used to have anything between four and six sessions,” she said. “But when you look, as a midwife, at the women going into labour these days a lot are frightened. Later, mothers don’t even know that it is OK that their new babies cry or that they feel the baby blues. We need to look at our investment in this and whether the organisation of it is right.”
While NICE guidelines advise that all women “should be offered antenatal classes, including breastfeeding workshops” during their antenatal appointments, many of the mums we asked on Twitter weren’t. “I didn’t get the option, as they were fully booked!” @coconutandchoc told us.
On Facebook and Twitter, many of you responded that an important aspect of antenatal classes is the ability to meet other pregnant women. Alison Faithful told us: “It [online courses] is a dreadful idea. The whole point is to learn about childbirth and raising a child but also to discuss fears, misconceptions and to meet people in the same situation as you! You can’t do that with a screen.”
One user thought a mix of online and group classes would be good. “I think both. I missed half my antenatal classes cos i was in and out of hospital. Would have been good to do at home,” @MrsDanniRogers said.