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York Hospital to replace antenatal lessons with “virtual classes”
YORK Hospital is becoming the first in the country to replace antenatal lessons with “virtual classes” for expectant mothers to watch online.
A drop in women going to antenatal classes to prepare for giving birth – which are currently attended by less than 25 per cent of mothers – has led to a decision to phase out classes for most women.
Instead all of the same information will be available online with virtual classes filmed at the maternity suite at York Hospital showing its staff and labour rooms.
However, the decision to cut antenatal classes completely has been questioned by parenting charity NCT which said classes should cater to the different needs of parents instead of being stopped.
Midwife Sue Jackson said the films will familiarise the majority of women who are not going to classes with the staff and facilities.
She said: “It should open up the information available to women much more effectively than what we have at the moment. We have to make sure the service is appropriate and is being accessed appropriately.”
York Hospital said antenatal classes will still be held for teenage mothers and women giving birth to more than one baby.
Women will continue to see a midwife who will answer any questions and give guidance – first-time mums have an average of six to eight appointments.
Currently women in York are offered three antenatal classes which they can attend with a birthing partner, two led by a midwife and one by a physiotherapist.
The online classes will be launched in mid-October and the final antenatal classes will be held in York at Christmas time.
Other hospitals run by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – including Scarborough – are expected to follow suit at a later date.
About 3,400 babies are born a year at York Hospital, which has said attendance at antenatal classes is thought to have dropped due to women working longer and being unable to attend classes often held in the afternoon.
Some women, including single mothers, are also less likely to feel comfortable about attending. The filmed classes will include learning about relaxation and breathing, the early stages of labour, and explanation of what happens in labour and information about pain relief as well as breast feeding and what can be expected after birth.
But the parenting charity NCT has said it is disappointed antenatal classes were being “abandoned altogether”.
Belinda Phipps, chief executive, said: “There is currently no evidence to show that online courses are as good as traditional antenatal courses. Replacing the courses with an online-only system could put parents at a disadvantage. Antenatal education is not just about the transfer of information, but also the support you get from the parents that you meet.”
York Hospital said other relevant information to mums will also be available on the site, including information about healthy eating and frequently asked questions.
The hospital had been working with the Maternity Services Liaison Committee which speaks on behalf of patients. Ms Jackson said there will be no hours lost for midwives.
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