Over the last seven months I have been to many appointments and classes, some I have paid for myself and some have been supplied by the NHS. I thought it would be useful to share my opinions on what I have experienced during this time. I have had both positive and negative encounters. Please note these are my own opinions and it may differ depending on what area of the country you live in or who your midwife is.
My first appointment with my midwife was when I was nine weeks pregnant. The meeting lasted an hour and she went through Gavin and I’s medical history. She also took a urine sample and lots of blood. My arm hurt for at least a week after, due to the amount that she took. I was also given my green notes which I have to take to every meeting during my pregnancy. I didn’t feel like there was a personal touch to the appointment. Where I was expecting a “Congratulations” instead I was left feeling like I was just another pregnant person that she had to meet with.
When we went for the first scan at our local hospital, again the experience wasn’t what I expected at all. There wasn’t a friendly “Congratulations” from the sonographer, just straight down to business of checking everything medical-wise. I was asked to take more blood tests, so they could check for down syndrome and other issues that can be detected. However this was turned into a positive day as the due date was confirmed.
Within a couple of weeks of announcing we were pregnant a few of my friends were going to a baby first aid course which they invited me to go along to. This was supplied by a company called Watson Training Services, it cost £15 for the session and lasted for two hours. The workshop consisted of basic child and baby first aid, including how to deal with choking, CPR, the recovery position and febrile convulsions. I would highly recommend any parent or grandparent to go on this type of course, as I learnt so many different techniques. I do feel it has given me the confidence to deal with situations that may occur. Also, we learnt about what to include in a first aid kit, specifically for a baby.
The second time I met with my midwife, I found it increasingly difficult to meet with her as she is only available at my GP practise on Tuesday mornings. The catch up meeting didn’t last as long as the initial appointment, speaking with other mothers to be I did feel there was a lack of information supplied to me. I should have been registered for parent classes at this meeting. A health visitor should have been contacted on my behalf also at this meeting which I am still waiting for the health visitor to contact me today.
Around week twenty I was invited to the hospital for an evening class, where we were told what to expect during pregnancy and a tour of the hospital. The midwives at the hospital are much better and I feel more at ease to ask them questions, however the tour of the maternity ward wasn’t what I expected. It was a video that we watched for twenty minutes ( I had already seen through this on You Tube). For me an actual tour of the building and to know where the doors for the labour ward actually are, would have been more useful.
The first of the three parent classes that Gavin and I went to, through the NHS, was called “Active Birth”. This was a very quick class and went through the different stages of labour, when to call the hospital and what to do during the early stages. We covered pre hospital activities to do such as take a bath, use a TENS machine and try to relax. I found this class the least useful but I do feel prepared as to what to do should my waters break and at what point to go to the labour ward.
I have found that the pilates classes I go to on a weekly basis, which cost around £6 per session, are helping me practise my breathing. The classes also give me techniques of how to aid the labour such as using a ball or getting into different positions to encourage “little alien” into the birth canal. I have struggled to find Hypnotherapy classes in my area so took to the internet to try to learn what is involved. I found a fantastic app called “Hypnobirth” which gives guided positive affirmations and talks you through how to relax. I will certainly be using this app, because once the music comes on I can feel my body instantly relaxing.
When I went for my twenty eight week appointment with the midwife she took further blood tests, a urine sample and started to measure my bump. This was interesting as the guide predicts the weight of the baby, it put “little alien” as being three pounds. When the blood test results came back I was found to have anemia so was told to start taking iron tablets. These tablets have been the bane of my life, I have to take three tablets on a daily basis and seem to always forget to take them. They have also made my stools black and hard which means I am on the toilet for a long time. Whilst talking about tablets I have heard mixed reviews from midwives about taking “Pregnacare” vitamins. Some people say to take them only in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy whilst others advise to take them all the time, this leaves me wondering which is the correct way!
The second of the three parent classes that Gavin and I went to, was on pain relief. This class talked about the different options available during labour e.g., an epidural (which takes all the pain away), gas and air (which reduces the pain) and water therapy (which is natural pain relief in a birthing pool). The evening lasted about two hours and I did feel I learnt a lot from it, it certainly cemented in my head that I don’t want any injections (this might change, come the day!). We covered if problems occur how the midwives can help e.g. using forceps, using a suction cup or when they will advise to have a c-section.
The final class was talking about the first few days after birth. This was the best course of all and lasted two and a half hours (we left at 10pm). The class was more practical and Gavin was asked to stand up in front of everyone to show how to dress a baby doll, I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t get any photos of this! Other fathers were asked to stand up and practise how to change a nappy, how to bath a doll and how to put a baby to sleep. During the class the women and men were separated into different groups so the midwife could show us how to self express with a knitted boob. At the time this was very amusing to watch but I can see how it can help me if I ever need to do this to make my milk come.
Overall, my feelings are that if you pay for a class or a scan you get treated a lot better than you do with the NHS. I have been left to feel like a number and not a person, which does make me wonder about the support I may receive when “little alien” is coming. Even after the baby is born I’m now worried what support I may receive from the health visitors. Even though I have received the care during my pregnancy it hasn’t been without me having to make phone calls and chasing for updates on a regular basis. Finally when talking to others it does seem that there are subjects that we have all missed out on. This all leads me to think that there isn’t a process in place and needs to be more streamlined to make sure that all information is given to expectant mothers.