11 June 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
Mars vs Venus
Right from the very beginning, starting with conception and development in the womb, male and female brains are wired differently. Even as babies and toddlers, girls and boys utilise different parts of the brain when reacting to the same stimuli, so their brains develop in different ways, which in turn shape their subsequent perspectives of things according to their gender. Thus, you would probably expect that my takeaways from our antenatal class experience must be completely different from Dan’s. Well, yes!
As you would have seen from Dan’s first blog entry on antenatal class, men are task-oriented. After 8 sessions of antenatal teachings, he simply focused on THE key task at hand — labour — and distilled the teachings into four simple steps. He mentally walks through the scenario and thinks of practical matters that don’t seem to cross anybody else’s mind too. Such as:
– Which parts of the KKH carpark are husbands of labouring women suppose to park?
– Can he just leave the parking of the car to the valet? Will there be a wheelchair available for use? Or is he to support his wife, whose contractions are ten minutes apart, all the way from B2 to Level 2?
– Do patients at KKH get complimentary parking when they go into labour? Otherwise very expensive right, to park at the hospital for hours on end?
– How much in hospital bills can we expect to have to sign on our credit card upon discharge? (I will touch on $$$$ in a separate entry later)
Women, apparently, process and share information in a completely different way. Did you know that one of the body parts that a female baby exercises most while in the womb is her MOUTH? She’s practicing talking already!
Since this is MY blog and not Dan’s, in true female-brain fashion, I’m going to give a complete overview of the antenatal programme at KKH. Plus, my Libran nature dictates that I absolutely MUST analyse the programme’s usefulness and set out the pros and cons for all to know (or I might just keel over and go into convulsions.)
Too much to absorb? Go read a guy’s blog.
Why Did We Choose the Antenatal Programme at KKH?
– Relevance: Since we had chosen to deliver at KKH, it made the most sense to familiarise ourselves with the maternity facilities, services and processes at the same hospital.
– Timing: KKH encourages expecting women to attend the course from the 16th week of pregnancy onwards. The weekly sessions, with a break mid-way through, are nicely timed to coincide with the progress of your pregnancy.
– Cost: Course fees are relatively inexpensive. For a total of 10 sessions (and a decent goodie bag), KKH patients pay $120 per couple for weekday and $150 for weekend courses. Non-KKH patients pay $150 and $180 respectively. Each session lasts almost 2 hours and class sizes are kept small (8 to 10 couples). Husband can’t make it for class? Invite your mum or friend to come along!
– Patient Education Centre: Wondering where I learnt about the differences in brain development in baby girls and boys? From a book titled “It’s A Girl!” that I borrowed from the KKH PEC. Students are entitled to borrow books, magazines and DVDs from the wide range of educational resources available. These include learning material on general health and fitness, fertility and conception, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, baby care, parenting and even children’s storybooks and DVDs. We help ourselves to free past issues of Young Parents and Motherhood magazines too, which I share with my fellow pregnant friends.
So What Did We Learn?
This is what the programme covers in a nutshell:
– Session 1: Body changes during pregnancy; Orientation of maternity services
– Session 2: Looking after yourself during pregnancy
– Session 3: Diet & medication during pregnancy
– Session 4: Nurturing your child; ABCs of vaccination
– Session 5: Coping with the first stage of labour; Relaxation exercises
– Session 6: Coping with the second stage of labour; Labour rehearsal & post-natal exercises
– Session 7: Labour & delivery (where you watch an English-dubbed French birth video from the 1980s! It was so unbearably dated that I toyed with the idea of volunteering myself for a new birth video but decided against subjecting people whom I might know to watching my bodily fluids squirt out from my gory bits on big screen.)
– Session 8: Pain relief during labour; Preparation for admission; Spousal support during labour
– Session 9: Breastfeeding
– Session 10: Care of your baby; Parent craft
So… Was It Useful?
– Cost: The programme is certainly value for money in terms of the number of sessions and class duration. We briefly considered signing up for a 6-session course conducted by a well-known lactation specialist at Thomson Medical Centre at a cost of $260 but decided on KKH in the end for the reasons set out above.
– Expertise: The course facilitators are all from KKH (e.g. dieticians, physiotherapists and nurses from the maternity ward/delivery suite) and all clearly experienced in their respective fields. Some of the senior nurses are so gentle and earnest when teaching that it almost inspires me to opt for a mid-career change to nursing! My favourite nurse, however, delivers her classes with sarcastic humour and dry wit. I like her practical, as-is, non sugar-coated take on labour and delivery. For examples, how nurses abhor it when husbands repeatedly ask “How long more till my baby comes out?” and all they will reply is, “Soon, soon…” Husbands were told that cutting the baby’s umbilical cord was “the same as cutting chee cheong fun” and reminded not to pose for a photo with scissors primed to snip because he is not the VIP at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new store. Haha!
– Content: While each session is very comprehensive, it may be a bit of an information overload, especially if, like us, you’ve woken up bright and early on a Saturday morning to attend the 9am class. So it’s reassuring that students are given copies of the notes and presentation slides. My take is that if you DO NOT do any reading (from books, websites, forums, iPhone apps, etc.) whatsoever on your own and are just happy to turn up and be spoon-fed with EVERYTHING, then this is a great class for you. But if you have a PhD in Googling, you might find the classes a tad boring.
Personally, the specific nuggets of information that I found most useful were on
– maternity services and processes particular to KKH
– nutritional advice particular to the Asian diet (e.g. is chin chow too “cooling”?)
– signs of labour & pain relief exercises/options
– LABOUR REHEARSAL! Positions, breathing and pushing techniques for 2nd stage of labour (the most exciting bit) & post-natal care
– hands-on baby care practice (like how to fold a nappy!)
– Lactation techniques are good to know in theory, fun to practice with on a plastic doll, but probably more useful when taught post-delivery by a lactation specialist when you have an actual baby in your arms.
– Delivery (of class, not baby): Frankly, I thought the lessons could move a little faster, be less repetitive, be condensed into an hour and thus be less boring allow for more efficient use of time. But since not all first-time parents are created equal, I guess it allows for the slightly more clueless to absorb the information, take notes and ask questions. (Not to be mean, but if you need to ask whether it is safe for your wife to use mouthwash when pregnant, or if you need to have the epidural process explained THRICE over, just check yourself into the Completely Clueless category. I quote real life examples from my class. Come one, expectant people, read up on your own a bit!)
Which is why, it is very important to…
Bring Along a Fun Partner! (refer to examples below)
Dan doesn’t just employ silly antics to keep the wife (or rather, himself) awake and entertained. During one session when I was starting to space out over how to treat blocked milk ducts, he started quacking, “Quack quack! Get it? Blocked ducks?” How can you not crack up at such a dumb joke?!
Humour can come in useful in managing labour. Can’t remember the correct breathing rhythm (“hoo hoo haaaaa”) for when you feel the urge to push but are advised not to (say, when less than 10cm dilated, or when the doctor is making the episiotomy cut)? Take advice from Birth Coach Dannie: “Just remember that it’s the same rhythm that you stamp and clap to when you sing ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen.” And to prove his point, he starts singing and stomping right in the middle of class. (He IS right, by the way — just try it.)
So yes, I would highly recommend attending an antenatal programme, preferably conducted by the same hospital where you have chosen to deliver your baby. It’s good to meet and hear from local experts on pregnancy, birth and post-natal issues in the local context, which may not be covered in books and websites written by Western doctors (e.g. the Asian pregnancy diet, medications available locally, Traditional Chinese Medicine, confinement traditions, etc.)
Remember to have fun while learning!