Antenatal Classes Give Many Women Comfort; Information Is a Bonus


Feb 1, 2019


Image courtesy of upaya-yoga.com

Shama Mukadam is in her second trimester and all set to join an antenatal class. “Among moms-to-be, antenatal classes is the buzzword,” Mukadam says. “For me, joining them came as an immediate thought, because it’s quite a relief to be doing activities under someone’s care and supervision, be around people who are in the same phase of life and are sharing the same experiences.”

However, her mother and mother-in-law do not get the fuss about antenatal classes. “They keep saying bed rest will do me better; this is just a fancy concept for people to make money and that if they can deliver healthy babies without these classes being around, why can’t I,” Mukadam says.

Mukadam, however, hasn’t bought any of this and is looking forward to joining one. “If they’re growing in numbers, I’m sure people are benefiting from them in some way,” she says.

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Antenatal classes, as the name suggests, aim to help women and their partners get ready for a baby in all respects. Primarily, the classes are about labor — preparing for it, signs and stages, when to call the hospital, birthing positions, and relaxation and breathing skills — along with tips on early parenting, breastfeeding and newborn behavior.

But they’re not limited to theory. “Antenatal classes are designed with a holistic approach,” says physiotherapist Rukmini Talwar, a lead therapist at a Mumbai-based antenatal class service called We Care. “The theory bit is something doctors and midwives will tell you but antenatal classes are different because they involve activities for pregnant women and the couple under one roof as opposed to having to go for it in different places.”

Many antenatal classes offer prenatal yoga, music therapy, massages, exercise techniques, and instruction on diaper-tying, baby-burping, and identifying why a baby may be crying. These classes often also address nutrition, options available for a pain-free delivery, spousal communication during pregnancy, and infant massage techniques.

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The spectrum of services reflect the unregulated nature of the industry; antenatal class instructors are not required to have any specific certification. Though many do have specialization in physiotherapy, yoga, lactation, or other areas, others simply offer a support network for parents-to-be — which may be what women and couples, who sign up for these classes, are looking for most.

“My husband and I are looking forward to going for these classes because they won’t only help us spend time together in a special phase in our lives, but we’ll also end up meeting a lot of other to-be parents, make a whole new set of friends and know that we’re not alone when there are complications, emergencies,” says Mukadam.

For some who’ve been through these courses, antenatal classes have helped them sort through mixed emotions.

Mumbai-based Sulekha Jamwal, now a mother to a two-year-old, says, “Although my parents, in-laws and doctors were telling me everything about birthing, going to the classes just made me less scared and anxious about when delivery would approach, and caring for the baby,” she says.

Her classmate Anandita Ghosh agrees. “I wrote a birth plan but as soon as the contractions kicked in, I didn’t care about it. But what it did until then was that it kept me calm,” she says. “I felt like I wasn’t going in blindfolded,” she adds.

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Studies have linked antenatal classes to successful breastfeeding and a more positive experience of childbirth. For instance, the US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information, a library of medicine, that studied close to a 1,000 women attending antenatal classes concluded by saying that women who attended these had a much lower risk of Cesarean section and were about half as likely to bottle feed while in hospital compared to those who didn’t attend. 

“The above is likely because they receive better information on contraception, breastfeeding and baby care. They seem to improve women’s knowledge and competence. This may provide a defense against the tendency to overmedicalize pregnancy and childbirth,” the study said.

However, these studies have failed to establish as fact that improved outcomes in breastfeeding or deliveries are a direct result of being part of an antenatal class. Given that those who can afford such classes are also those who have better access to other things that influence these outcomes — like quality health care resources, nutrition and general well-being — there’s little evidence that antenatal classes are indispensable.

Doctors agree. “From our observation, women and couples who have attended antenatal classes may sometimes be better equipped to handle their deliveries, but having said that, it’s not necessary that every couple has to enroll for one. Doctors and midwives will eventually end up giving the same advice and applying the same techniques,” says gynecologist Dr Rama Agarwal, from Mumbai-based Apsara Maternity Clinics. “And for some, they may not be affordable so it’s absolutely okay if you can’t go to one.”

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Like for Sharada Kalra, joining antenatal classes in the midst of having a baby that itself is an expensive affair, didn’t make sense. “There are hospital costs to cover and then buying so many things for the baby, with antenatal classes priced at Rs 45,000 to Rs 55,000 for two months, it didn’t work out for us,” she says.

For most, however, antenatal classes will be just a way to replace the advice mothers and mothers-in-law have always given. A new Mumbai-based mother Tanushree Lele says, “Yes, the activities are fun and new, but there is no information I didn’t receive from both my families. Although I’d say that people will miss out if they don’t go as this is a valuable time to prepare for labor and childbirth, but when it’s actually time, I think the only advice I received that made sense afterwards was to just go with whatever happens and don’t get stuck to a birth plan.”


Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.


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