As many NHS trusts have failed to resume face to face sessions, first-time mothers are being forced by distance travel to pay for antenatal classes in person.
To slow the spread Covid-19, online antenatal classes were offered at NHS trusts all over the country.
These have been reintroduced at various trusts but delivery has been slow.
Numerous first-time mothers across the country are expecting to give birth within the next few months. i They were not offered face to face antenatal classes through their NHS trusts.
Each woman was only given virtual sessions. One instance was pre-recorded.
Linda, who only wanted to give her first name, said the experience had made her “feel a little bit lost” and like she had “missed out”.
The 37-year-old cabin crew worker from Forth Valley, Scotland, who is eight months pregnant with her first child said it “wasn’t good enough” that NHS Forth Valley was only offering antenatal classes online.
“There wasn’t even that many. They only run once a month. It wasn’t the easiest to sign up and I did one last week and it was a Microsoft Teams and it’s not good, it’s not good enough.”
Linda stated that although the sessions are being held on Microsoft Teams (which means they are interactive and live), Linda and her partner had difficulty engaging with the virtual class.
‘I feel like we’ve missed out’
She said: “There were some technical faults and people were joining the call later on and then [the midwife] Her repeated statements were a sign of her indifference. You just don’t engage as well when you’re sitting in your living room staring at a little screen.”
According to the NHS, antenatal classes are a great way for expectant mothers to learn confidence and get information.
Linda felt that she was not prepared for her first child after the virtual experience.
“It makes me feel like a little bit lost… I feel like we’ve missed out,” she said.
Linda decided to pay privately for additional classes in-person. It cost her £66 for a block of six private sessions but her partner is not permitted to attend. “It’s not great when you feel like that’s your only option.
“I think it’s put a bit more pressure on me to make sure that my partner knows more,” she said.
NHS Forth Valley said: “We currently deliver antenatal education classes online via MS Teams in a live interactive session format. We also provide educations sessions face-to-face on a one-to-one basis.”
It added that midwives speak with women regularly to ensure they can access an educational method suitable for them, at a time that suits them, and it is recognised that “one size does not fit all”.
“Due to infection control guidance, we continue to be restricted in the number of people we can host in our learning spaces for group antenatal classes. We are however, reviewing this continually,” NHS Forth Valley said.
According to the NHS, antenatal classes can be a great way to meet other parents expecting babies at the same time.
Louise, a Hull healthcare professional, is 34 weeks pregnant.
The 34-year-old said: “I think because it’s our first baby we probably would have preferred face-to-face just because we don’t know any other parents that are expecting babies.
“You’re not going to just randomly contact somebody who’s in the Zoom group.”
Louise only attended one class so far. The second class was cancelled because the midwife was ill.
“The information was good but there were a lot of technical problems, I think because she might have been working from home.
“There was a point right at the end where it just felt a little bit rushed and I don’t know if that was in part because of the earlier problems.”
Louise was prepared to pay around £100 for in-person sessions but the timings were not compatible.
To find more information, she used BabyCentre UK online resources. However, this might not be an option for all women.
“The internet is a good thing for the information but it can be really overwhelming.
“I live in a deprived area, so there might be a lot of first-time mums out there who don’t really know where to go for information.”
Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The trust began reintroducing face to face antenatal classes in June this year for women living in Hull/with a Hull GP.”
But the trust’s website states: “In line with the government’s advice for pregnant women regarding the Covid-19 virus, Hull Women’s and Children’s hospital are still running parent education classes online.”
“Hull women and their birth partners are given the choice of how they wish to access antenatal classes; either virtually (online), in person, or occasionally a combination of the two,” the trust told i.
Louise stated that she was only provided information about virtual sessions. No information was given about face to face sessions.
Alicia, 35 years old, is also due to have her first child in the autumn. This was because Barking, Havering, and Redbridge University Hospitals, NHS Trust, did not offer them.
Alicia did not want to use her first name. She said that a midwife told her that the sessions could be accessed online.
“Obviously it’s a little bit daunting, especially when it’s your first baby,” she said. “It’s good to have those classes where you can meet other mums but you have to pay for them.”
An NHS spokesperson said: “While individual hospitals are responsible for setting their own guidance on antenatal classes, the NHS focuses its resources on providing services to those most in need.”
Redbridge University Hospitals NHST, Barking, Havering and Redbridge didn’t respond to my requests for comment.