Antenatal Class One – Normal Labour and Birth

I booked my course of two antenatal classes a few weeks ago, it’s recommended they are taken from around 32 weeks, but I am now 35 weeks so was starting to feel a bit nervous about making sure that I get to attend them before my little man makes his appearance. We couldn’t book them any earlier as Jacksons dad was adamant that he wanted to attend the second class and he was working on all the earlier dates.

I decided when we broke up that Jacksons dad wouldn’t be attending the first class because he isn’t going to be my birth partner. It doesn’t seem we can go 5 minutes without arguing these days and as such he isn’t ideal as someone to keep me calm during labour. The other reason is that he lives 30 miles away, so in terms of ensuring he is there on time it would be more difficult to guarantee. My mum will be my birth partner, and attended the class with me. She only lives 15 minutes away and therefore should be able to get to me in time. I assume Jacksons dad will want to be there to see his son being born, but it is entirely up to him and not something we have discussed yet, but it will be purely to see his son, my mum will be supporting me and as such it was important to me that she came to the class so she knew what was happening as things have changed a lot in the last 20 years!

At the class there were 8 pregnant women, some with partners, mums and sisters, and some on their own sat on chairs round in a semicircle. There was a midwife and a student midwife running the class, and the midwife started by explaining what she would be covering during the session – it felt very much like school! She then asked it we were all due next month, and there was a slight pause as we all realised it was now July and a sudden moment of realisation for all of us that yes we were due next month!

They started the session by telling us about the later stages of pregnancy and that mood swings are perfectly natural – large amounts of hormones in the body and a massive life event looming is bound to affect us somehow – maybe this explains why I’ve been feeling quite so worried recently. They also told us that increased discharge is natural and can sometimes feel like peeing yourself or your waters breaking, however the substance is different so it’s easy to tell.

They then asked if anyone had packed their hospital bag – some had, some hadn’t. They told us a few things to make sure we included, and that we don’t need to bring a mass of nappies, just two or three, as it is something the hospital has spares of (that has just freed up half my suitcase!)

They then moved onto signs that precede labour, for example, spurts of energy that are also called nesting, stomach upsets and diarrhoea. They then moved onto saying that labour tends to start with losing the mucus plug which is also called a show, and this tends to be followed (not necessarily immediately – sometimes days later) by contractions. It is apparently very unusual for labour to start with the waters breaking as is often shown in films. But when the waters do finally go they should be straw coloured, (not greeny black which is caused by the baby pooping. This could be a sign of distress and you should tell the hospital). Contractions won’t start off regular, but will eventually get closer together and more regular, unlike Brixton hicks (which I have not experienced) which remain irregular. Apparently another way to distinguish them is that moving around can stop Braxton hicks, but will encourage contractions.

Something that I didn’t realise before the class was that the cervix is a tube and that the earliest stages of labour is the tube shortening before it starts to open.

In terms of going in to the hospital they told us that the contractions need to be about 4-5 minutes apart before you go in as at that point you reach about 4cm dilated and go into established labour, apparently before this point the contractions may stop completely and you can go back out of labour, maybe for days. They also told us not to worry that your contractions slow down when you do finally go into hospital as the hormones that cause stress can suppress labour, but when you relax again they will probably come back.

The next thing they discussed was pain relief and after listening to the pros and cons of all of them I have decided I am going to be very limited in what I will have! They told us to start off with paracetamol and a warm bath – I have been avoiding taking paracetamol all pregnancy as I’m not sure how it reacts with the Asprin I am taking daily. The next step up was a tens machine. Unfortunately my hospital doesn’t supply them as I have read some hospitals do, so it is necessary to privately hire them for around £30. After tens is gas and air, I will give this a go again, though last time I passed out from using it. We asked the midwife at the end how common this was and how likely it was to happen again and she reassured me it was unlikely to happen again. After gas and air came Pethidine which can have effects on the baby’s feeding up to a week after birth, and then they talked about epidurals. I pretty much stopped listening at this point as I know I don’t want one and if I have to have one for some reason I’d rather know as little as possible about it – though I know I’d rather have a general than an epidural!

Apparently they don’t tend to actually examine women unless they need to, they can normally tell just from looking at them how far gone they are!

Birthing positions were discussed too – from watching One Born Every Minute I’d assumed that it was likely that giving birth happened on a bed, but the midwife was adamant that that wasn’t going to happen! Lying on your back pushes the base of your spine into the area that baby’s head needs to come out therefore making labour difficult. A suggestion she came up with was pushing on the toilet. Apparently as you are used to straining on the loo it feels natural (she did reassure us that they put a bedpan in the loo just incase the midwife doesn’t catch!) this made the whole class giggle!

They explained that once baby is born they try to get them onto mums chest/tummy (depending on the length of the cord) as quickly as possible as they recognise the smell and can then find the nipple. They also talked about delayed cord clamping and how it can be left attached to baby for as long as you like, then you can decide whether to deliver the placenta naturally (can take about an hour and may cause additional bleeding) or to have an injection which makes the placenta deliver in about 10 minutes.

They ended the class at the point that the baby has been placed on the mothers chest and next week we are going from that point and through the first week of life.

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