There are different models of antenatal care in South Africa, ranging from government supported (where services are delivered free from cost); to private health care which is delivered by a general practitioner, obstetrician or midwife.
Shared care, where the woman is cared for by both a medical practitioner and a midwife, or a team of independent (private) midwives, is appropriate for a healthy mother with an uncomplicated pregnancy. This Pregnancy Month, midwifery consultant, Dr Diana du Plessis and baby care expert, Astrid Anderson highlight the importance of antenatal visits and classes.
An Essential Part of Pregnancy
“Antenatal care is an essential part of the pregnancy and should start when the pregnancy is diagnosed. While the most popular place to give birth is a hospital’s maternity unit, where the mother has access to high-tech equipment and professional expertise of trained doctors and midwives, antenatal care is an opportunity to promote the following: the use of skilled attendance at birth; healthy behaviors such as proper nutrition, breastfeeding, early postnatal care and planning for optimal pregnancy spacing,” explains Dr du Plessis.
Sticking to appointments is essential to determine if the baby is healthy and if the pregnancy is progressing well. According to Dr du Plessis, a small minority of women develop complications such as hypertension and diabetes, and early diagnosis means they can be properly monitored and treated. The mother should be open and honest during these visits, as accurate information will identify factors that can influence the health of the mother and the baby.
Make Informed Choices
Pregnancy and the prospect of birthing may cause profound anxiety for some women. “To assist in eliminating this anxiety it is recommended that moms/pregnant couples attend antenatal classes to gain insight and obtain evidence-based information. Attending classes will allow the prospective parent/s access to information on topics such as: pregnancy, birthing options and breastfeeding to mention but a few, which will then allow them to make informed choices through knowledge of all the available alternatives,” advises Philips AVENT’s Astrid Anderson.
“It’s also advisable for second-time moms to attend antenatal classes. Not only will moms pick up on information that didn’t necessarily capture their attention the first time, but they’ll also have more context having experienced pregnancy and newborn babies before. This means parents will more than likely receive the information in a completely different way. Perhaps more importantly, it gives couples the time and space they need to focus on the imminent arrival of their next baby, without the inevitable distraction of an existing child/children,” adds Anderson.
The importance of your first antenatal classes and visits cannot be denied. To find out about classes near you, chat to your midwife or healthcare provider.