This attractively boxed set of 2 DVDs is unique I feel, in aiming to provide a full package of antenatal education, allowing relaxed viewing in the home setting, in which the woman and her birth partner are encouraged to participate in exercises and discussion, as if involved in the actual class.
It follows a real life antenatal class, led by leading UK midwife of 30 years, Caroline Flint, in her relaxed jovial approach to a traditional structure: providing preparation for pregnancy, labour and life in the first weeks as a new parent. It appears to fill the ever widening void of reduced NHS antenatal preparation and the increasing cost of independently led courses in a convenient and cost effective manner (£29.99). It covers pregnancy, stages of labour, complications antenatally and during labour, breastfeeding, complementary therapies and the role of doulas and birth partners.
Women may particularly like the postnatal section where the new families meet to retell their birth stories, which conveniently include elective caesarian for breech, emergency caesarian section and planned and unplanned homebirths. Here is a realistic description of a traumatic birth and the feelings of guilt in not establishing breastfeeding – both of which are dealt with by Caroline’s words of wisdom, “Every birth is different and often it doesn’t go according to a pre-conceived plan. The key is to be well informed so that parents can feel in control regardless of what happens”.
Women are encouraged to imagine they are part of the class, to participate and perhaps even make friends in the online community provided by the website.
Caroline provides practical advice in a relaxed, humorous and straightforward manner in what does not appear to be an over produced TV performance, allowing her to give both thoughtfully considered responses and deal with members of the class, who are visibly upset whilst retelling a traumatic experience.
She is the master of story telling, leading the parents-to-be like young school children, hanging on to her every word. I would perhaps question the evidence base of the advice given for the woman to remain in bed for the first 10 days postnatally, and the advice provided for prevention of SIDS is not up to date in the UK. As an expert in her field, Caroline can sometimes assume the viewer understands the basics of a subject, such as mastitis, and this leads to what may appear as a vague and flippant explanation to a first time mother. However, Caroline does lead both realistic and revealing discussions within the group, both antenatally and postnatally, allowing time for reflection and analysis of what has happened to them during the journey of pregnancy and childbirth.
In addition to the classes, a section provides interviews with social anthropologist Sheila Kitzinger, NHS midwife Colleen Wedderburn Tate, and obstetrician Yehudi Gordon, the first two feeling a little inappropriate for the parent-to-be and more relevant perhaps to a health professional, but the latter providing straightforward advice “Chill out, what will be, will be!”
I think this provides an excellent medium for women, their partners and families to educate themselves in the antenatal period, in a relaxed and convenient manner, ensuring they have the knowledge to ensure informed decision making during their pregnancy and postnatal periods. It provides a realistic picture of the expectations and realisations of pregnancy and childbirth.
– Reviewed by Jane Pooley RM, BA (Hons), MSc. Senior Midwifery Lecturer, University of Bedfordshire in September 2010, Volume 1, Number 3 Edition of Essentially MIDIRS.