Video link might not be the way most mums-to-be would expect to be taking their antenatal classes, but the unusual method of birth education has now produced some of its first ‘Zoom babies’ in East Yorkshire.
Back in March, maternity staff from Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust were forced to reconsider how they cared for babies and mums-to-be in light of the emerging coronavirus pandemic.
Women attending antenatal screening are now asked to attend alone, some early antenatal check-ups are being conducted over the phone, and the HEY Baby birth education team has quickly taken advantage of online collaboration tools like Zoom to ensure classes can still continue.
“The main priorities for us throughout the coronavirus outbreak have been to keep people safe and keep people informed,” says Melanie Lee, specialist midwife for parent education within the trust’s HEY Baby team.
“Having a baby is no easy task at the best of times, and it comes with all sorts of worries, questions and concerns, from what to expect during the birth, how to breastfeed and everything in between. The arrival of coronavirus then just added another layer of difficulty on top, so we were keen to do all we could to provide that much-needed presence and reassurance for women and their families.
“One of the main ways we prepare parents-to-be for their new baby is through parenting and antenatal classes. Normally these are conducted face to face, where we’re able to chat with people and demonstrate techniques in person. Once restrictions were introduced and social distancing rules came into force, we had to look again at how we shared this vital information with expectant parents, and online video conferencing tools gave us the perfect solution.”
In the last two months, the HEY Baby team has organised more than 20 online antenatal and parenting classes covering topics from signs of labour and support for partners through to safer sleep for the baby and bathing and nappy changing.
“Online collaboration is something the NHS has used a lot more since physical restrictions came in, and it’s proving incredibly popular with the people who use our services,” Melanie continues.
“People don’t have to leave the house, there’s no need to worry about getting parked anywhere, and if they have other children, they can still comfortably keep an eye on them at home while following the classes. Some 174 people took part in our online classes during April alone, and the feedback really has been fantastic.”
One woman who is particularly thankful for the support is Georgia VanDerEnd. She and her partner, Luke, took part in antenatal classes by Zoom over the course of three weeks, and on 18th May, Georgia gave birth to baby Rory James in the Fatima Allam Birth Centre.
Georgia says: “The online Zoom antenatal classes were so helpful in a time of such uncertainty. As first time parents, it really helped me and my partner with the basics and it was great to meet other mums in the area. The ‘what to pack in your hospital bag’ part of the classes was especially helpful as there were a few things I hadn’t actually packed, and little did I know my beautiful baby boy would arrive only days later!”
Emma Sanders also took part in the online classes before she had her baby boy, Archie Lewis, at the Fatima Allam Birth Centre on May 14th.
Emma says: “The online antenatal classes made sure I didn’t miss out on vital information, as well as support, before the birth of my baby.
“I found seeing and speaking to other mums on Zoom very helpful, and knowing that others were also isolating meant that I wasn’t on my own.
“The Zoom classes were successful and I would highly recommend them to other mums-to-be.”
Kate and Joel Bibby had their baby girl, Esme Rose, on 17th May after they too took part in the online course.
Kate says: “The Zoom antenatal classes were really informative and a good way to interact and stay connected with other mums-to-be during lockdown. I’ve also found the WhatsApp group following the class a good way to continue asking questions and sharing information.”
If you have a Hull or East Riding GP and would like to book antenatal classes, simply visit www.hey.nhs.uk/maternity/book-antenatal-classes/
Important: If you are pregnant, it is important that you still attend your antenatal appointments and continue to seek advice from your midwife or maternity team. More information can be found at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/pregnancy-and-coronavirus/
[Rachel Johnson – Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust]