Over the last two weeks we have attended our NHS provided antenatal care classes at our local heath centre. The first was all about labour and pain relief and the second about life with a new baby.
Each session lasted for two hours and there was so so so much information to take in. Some of it we knew from research we had done ourselves over the last few months but some was an eye opener.
I thought I would share some of the nuggets of information we were given that I think will be most helpful, this is based only on the information we were given at our classes and the information given at other sessions may be different.
Top Tip 1 – Pre Labour
For first time mums you can have a period of ‘pre-labour’ before you actually start proper labour. This is the time when your cervix starts to shrink to make way for babies delivery. This can start up to a week before you actually go in to full blown labour and often feels like period pains and cramps. Whilst I knew about this thing called ‘pre-labour’ pains, I didn’t realise they could start so early before labour.
Top Tip 2 – Tens Machine
Hire a Tens Machine – my midwife mentioned this to me at my last check up as well. a Tens Machine is a little device with electric pads that you stick on your back. They provide a small pulse into your back muscles to help the body release it’s own natural pain relief. It’s recommended to start using a Tens Machine when you get the early back pain and slight contractions of ‘pre-labour’ and then work your way up the settings on the Tens Machine as your labour gets more intensive.
My midwife told me that women who use one are able to last a lot longer in labour before they ask for other pain relief such as an epidural.
Tens Machines are expensive to buy though (around £60 from my research) but you can often hire them from your local health centres. I have found a website that will hire them to you for around £21 for 6 weeks. It is recommended to have one from about 37 weeks on wards as baby could come early. With that in mind, I should order mine if I’m going to use one…
Top Tip 3 – Toddler Bed Mats
This tip blew my mind a little, according to the midwife running our classes a woman’s waters are most likely to break at night as this is when your body is most relaxed. Rather than waking up to a rather nasty surprise and a possible ruined mattress, they recommend you buy toddler bed mats. Predominately used to protect a toddlers mattress from accidents during potty training they will work in exactly the same way to protect your mattress if your waters break in your sleep.
It was also recommended to place a mat on the floor at the side of your bed, this can save your carpets too if you jump out of bed thinking what the hell was that… Another great place to keep one is in the glove box of your car. The ride to hospital can be a little messy too to placing one on the seat or in the foot well could save you a few hundred pounds in car valeting costs apparently.
The mats a very cheap in comparison, I bought a pack of 7 from Tesco for £4 – I’m going to put one in my bed, one in the spare bed (I often end up here when my back hurts), one in the glove box of the car and the others I’ll keep by the bed to put on the floor if I feel like the time might be close.
To give some context, here is one on my double spare bed. I’ve put it right in the middle as I tend to roll around to get comfy and definitely don’t stick to ‘my side’.
Top Tip 4 – First Bath
As part of the second session we had a demonstration of how to give baby their first ever bath, not recommended within the first 24 hours and only recommended once a week for the first 6 weeks.
We were shown how to hold baby correctly to keep them safe in the water, how to wash their faces and heads separately before putting them in the bath but most importantly in my view – not to use any products! No creams, oils, shampoos and certainly no talc!
A baby’s skin is covered in a special protective layer when they’re born to help them adjust to the outside world and if we were to wash them with bath creams and shampoo we would remove this layer and increase their risk of skin irritation.
It is recommended that it can take up to 6 weeks for babies to be come adjusted and after this you could start to introduce shampoo and baby bath creams. One at a time, that way if your baby has a reaction to one of the products you will know which and can stop using it straight away.
Top Tip 5 – Swaddling is out!
So, the rules have changed! Just after we’ve bought and washed our swaddling blankets. The Lullaby Trust (specialists in infant death syndrome) have made a bit of a u-turn on swaddling. It is now believed that babies can become too hot whilst wrapped up and because their arms are secured inside the swaddle they can’t move about to create air flow and cool themselves down.
The health visitor at the class said that swaddling is still an individual preference but she wouldn’t recommend it at night, if you wanted to swaddle (or your baby just really loves it) she would recommend it for day time as you can keep a closer eye on their temperature to ensure they do not over heat.
So there you are, my top 5 tips from my antenatal classes. As I said, this is only based on the information we were given and my understanding of it. As a first timer I am somewhat blind and have no idea what to expect in the lead up to labour, during labour or the first few days and weeks when baby arrives. I am so glad we attended these classes and were able to ask questions and pick up information we wouldn’t otherwise know.
If you have any other great tips and tricks, please leave a comment below and help all us new mummies out.