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Why attending antenatal classes in your third trimester might be leaving it too late

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I have just had a realisation that attending antenatal classes in the third trimester of your pregnancy might be leaving it too late.

Part of it is based on my own experience during my first pregnancy, part is based on my experience supporting women as a doula and antenatal teacher.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I had the choice of going to antenatal classes when I was 5 months pregnant, or when I was 8 months pregnant. I am so grateful to the kind booking lady who when I asked her which ones I should book said that by 8 months I would be more tired and probably would feel less like going out in the evenings. Now I reckon she was wise and just used it as an excuse, because she knew how I would benefit from it.

You see, starting antenatal classes earlier allowed me to really think and mature my decision about what I wanted (and not wanted) for the birth. It opened my mind to think about aspects of birth I didn’t even know existed. It made me want to find out more, and to read more and to talk to more people., and completely changed the course of my experience for the better. I now know almost for certain that I would have had a completely different (and less positive) experience had I waited until the later part of my pregnancy.

But this isn’t about me really. It’s about you and making decisions about an experience that is going to impact you for the rest of your life. Because what makes a good birth experience isn’t so much what happened during the birth, but how you were made to feel about it, and how much decision making you had in the process. What you don’t know about, haven’t thought about, is very difficult make decision about if you are confronted with it during your labour and birth.

Trust me, this is important.

I know we are all very busy, and I hate to break it to you, but just attending a handful of evening classes is barely scratching the surface of what you need to know. You need not only to know all the options, but you need time to ponder and mature your decisions. Weigh up the pros and cons of each option. Risk perception is a very individual thing, and to make a truly informed decision, you need to know all the options and have time to think about it. Nobody can do this overnight.

I think that deep down, you know this.

So why wait?

Here are several reasons why having antenatal education in your second trimester might be one hell of a good idea:

  • You’ll be less tired. Yes, believe me, if this is your first pregnancy, you have NO IDEA, now that you are in the blooming phase of your pregnancy, how knackered you’re going to be after you hit 32 weeks.
  • You’ll have more time to ponder, to reflect, to plan and think and mature your options. You might end up realising that you want something completely different from what you thought you would. If this was your wedding day, would you wait until 6 weeks before it to start planning and organising it? Would you say “I’m just going to wing it?”. Now, guess which of these days is going to have the longest lasting impact on your future wellbeing?
  • You will feel more confident and less anxious about your labour and birth-this is because you’ll have had more time to explore what scares you, debunk some myths and explore some strategies to alleviate the fear.

It isn’t just about the birth either-it’s about finding out about postnatal recovery (I’ve written two blog posts about this, one about recovery, and one about why starting your maternity leave earlier might be a good idea), and about becoming a parent. There is a minefield of conflicting advice out there, and you need time to access information and debunk the many myths that our culture pushes upon us. You also need time to think about what feels right for YOU, to peel the onions layers of “should” laid upon us by our culture, and also have the time to reflect on your own experiences of being parented.

Does it feel like it’s a bit too much right now? It’s a lot of time and work to dedicate right? Again, coming back to the wedding analogy, that’s lot of time and work too. But it is really worth it! How would you react if someone told you that you’d spent too much time preparing your wedding? Ridiculous, right? Well, it’s the same for your birth.

The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone-a doula can be a bit like a wedding planner for your birth and parenting journey-she knows all the right people in the field, she can save you a huge amount of time and stress when it comes to finding out the info and signposts for you. She will listen to you and handpick the books, DVDs, articles and website links etc, that resonate with YOU.

If you are reading this, you are half way there and I would like to say well done for thinking of investing in yourself. This isn’t just about your baby, it’s about you, now and the future you once your baby has been born. You deserve this. It isn’t indulgent and it isn’t too early.

 

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