The future of childbirth education

The current COVID -19 pandemic has caused us to reflect on many aspects of our lives and as a result, we are rethinking our priorities in relation to our work -life balance. We are witnessing a revolution in how we approach work, family, and importantly education. We now have the opportunity to continue into the future. I believe we will break out of the moulds of the traditional constructs of childbirth education, which take a toll on our time and energy and ability to learn.

As an antenatal educator, I have had the opportunity to adapt my model of delivering education to expectant parents. Jumping from large group hospital based classes as well as private face-to-face private classes to providing a comprehensive on-line blended learning experience with face-to-face consultations by zoom. This shift in the delivery of education has been incredibly illuminating and has me questioning the effectiveness of the traditional model of large hospital based courses.

As a midwife and passionate childbirth educator, there are many personal benefits to old-fashioned large group style classes. The physical interaction between attendees and the group dynamic. There is always a personal buzz from chatting with the group as well as feeling rewarded when I have facilitated a positive course.

The ineffectiveness of education of this large group style has however become apparent to me over the last few years. In fact, research shows that group size is vitally important for antenatal education and research has shown that small peer groups encourage participants to get to know and support each other, while larger groups make it harder for women to ask questions.

Often hospital classes are so big that there is no opportunity to provide an interactive learning experience let alone allow peer groups to bond and support each other effectively. Another concern demonstrated in the research, is that when class sizes are large, it is likely the teaching will be more didactic and learning for parents less effective.

Evidence suggests that a class size of 8-10 couples is ideal. Parents value being encouraged to ask questions, seek clarification and relate information to their own circumstances. This is often not possible in large group classes and purely on-line platforms with no access to a midwife/ antenatal educator.

Despite seeing a need for on-line antenatal courses, after 10 years of teaching parents in the hospital setting and private face to face the clients home, I hesitated to move my course on-line due to lack of interaction with a midwife and the idea of live streaming for hours doesn’t meet best practice for online learning guidelines.

Because of the COVID 19 pandemic, I have recently launched my courses online but the point of difference for my courses is that expectant parents receive a blend of module style online learning and also live access to a midwife. My programs offer more than a standard online-only program to ensure access to me to address questions or concerns by live Q&A video call included once they have watched the modules.

This gives expectant parents the opportunity to speak with a midwife who can address any questions and concerns they might have. No other on-line course offers this option. The Q&A’s are capped at 10 participants to ensure the benefits of a small group is achieved. The antenatal programs I offer also differ in that there are multiple options available, rather than a one-size fits all approach. There is the option for the full program, caesarean program or parenting only program.

I believe that with the new generation of tech savvy, time poor expectant parents my brand of antenatal education will set them up for a positive birth experience and offer a personalised and effective way to learn about childbirth and parenting.


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