Corniche Hospital holds parent education classes

Corniche Hospital holds parent education classes

Parent education classes at Corniche Hospital help would-be mothers and fathers overcome 
fears, prepare them for child birth and teach them breastfeeding and baby care


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

Published: Sun 9 Mar 2014, 9:29 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:57 PM

The Parent Education Class at Corniche Hospital, Abu Dhabi. — KT photo by Shoaib Anwer

Reyaal and Hemanthi Hassan are having a baby for the first time. The South African couple are very excited and have read up extensively on every available literature about infants and parenting.

They also enrolled for the parent education classes at the Corniche Hospital and completed the entire seven courses in 27 weeks of Hemanthi’s pregnancy. “The courses are very helpful, especially for first-time parents. It is overwhelming when everybody is giving you advice and you read so many books. But this gives you the actual groundwork,” Hemanthi says.

The Corniche Hospital has been holding parent education classes for the past 26 years. As the largest maternity and neonatal hospital in the emirate with more than 8,000 births a year, the classes prove to be very beneficial for would-be parents. Dolly El Ghadban, patient experience manager, says the classes started as a “proactive approach” to parenting.

“For first baby and first pregnancy, new parents are often worried about (several) issues, but when you educate them, you prepare the couple on what to expect. Sometimes surprise is not really good for everybody. When you are prepared, you are educated and know what is expected, then you enjoy the time and the period of pregnancy,” she explains.

The classes, which are spread during the week and the weekends, are interactive and cover pregnancy, natural birth, inducing labour, caesarean operation, breastfeeding and baby care. During these sessions, participants are also introduced to newborn car safety (the importance of the baby car seat), and given a tour of the hospital.

“We do a course that includes seven sessions. The first one goes under the classification of pregnancy and contains a little bit about nutrition, the very basic exercises of pregnancy (such as the pelvic floor and exercise balls), preparing for the birth, episiotomy and preparing ladies on addressing back pain, which is common in pregnancy,” says Jasmine Sneyd, instructor at the Parent Education Centre. Sneyd has been running the classes since 1988 when the education department was first initiated.

The other classes look at the preparation and coping strategies for normal births such as breathing and relaxation techniques, and different positions that women can adopt that could be helpful for them during labour.

The third class discusses pregnancy complications that may require inducing labour due to medical conditions. In this session, pain control measures during labour are discussed. The fourth class looks at the reasons for caesarean operations, different types of anaesthetics available and the option of staying awake during the birthing process.

On breastfeeding, soon-to-be mothers are taught the proper way to hold their baby for feeding, know when the baby is feeding well, where to get help if required and expressing milk. The importance of breastfeeding is also highlighted. “This is a baby-friendly hospital, so we support, promote and protect breastfeeding because this is the optimal nutrition for the baby,” says Sneyd, who is also a clinical resource nurse, midwife and a lactation consultant.

“The last class is really quite interactive, even the fathers get involved in all these classes — about how to hold the baby, wash the baby, and how to change a nappy. We think about the skin care and the follow-up care for the baby. It’s also important that the ladies are aware of the vaccination programmes.”

During each session, she always reviews the relaxation techniques. “This one of the most important things because there is a stigma around childbirth — fear, stress, and again these factors can affect the birthing process. We also try to make the sessions fun.” According to Sneyd, the weekend sessions are the most popular with sometimes up to 31 couples signing up for a class. “They do seem to be more popular especially for first-time parents. Once the people have been to one class, they tend to come to them all.” Sneyd has also opened couple’s classes in the afternoon.

She attributes this popularity to the importance of information and support to women during pregnancy. “When we look at research, what is important to women is information and support. When you’re in a hospital, it’s not a familiar environment, therefore, women can feel quite isolated when they’re not with someone like their husband or mother,” she explains.

Hemanthi says she attended all classes with her husband. “It helps knowing this information and it is good for them (husbands) to know too. By getting the husband involved, they feel better at supporting you,” Hemanthi points out.

“I’m a birth partner and it’s empowering for both of us to have the right information. We read a lot of books but this made me feel comfortable. I like that they structured this class to give more information rather than activity classes. At the same time, it involves the husband and taught us like how to (give a) massage. I learned a lot and I’m happy to know that I can do something to help my wife. My (notion) has completely changed,” Reyaal remarks.

The class is all about empowering people, says Sneyd. “You’re giving them the knowledge and the skills to know what to do. For example, in labour if you’re terrified, this can affect it, how it advances and the whole experience. If people have been taught relaxation and breathing techniques, they can overcome their fear.”

Wendy Menghin, charge midwife at the hospital, who holds classes a few times a month, says coming to the class also provides opportunity for women to befriend other pregnant ladies. “This is very important, especially in their post-partum period.”

She says common concerns among them centres on the pain, fear of delivery and breastfeeding. “This is beneficial as well for the multi-para (more than one baby) patient. Having more than one baby does not mean you are well prepared or well aware. Sometimes you need to be there to ask the questions and clarify. (Old beliefs) of those with more than one baby will get corrected,” El Ghadban says.

The other support services being offered by the hospital are nutrition classes and advice by the lactation team. “They get ongoing support. This enables them to chat with the lactation staff if they’ve got any particular concern.”

Hemanthi says she didn’t know what to expect when she started the journey. “This made me feel at ease. I am looking forward to giving birth; it’s not as scary to me anymore. Even if you are not sure what to do, at least you can go to the parent education centre and someone will be there to help you. The classes are gearing you towards doing it naturally,” Hemanthi says.

Moving forward, the hospital plans to include courses on health issues affecting the community such as Vitamin D deficiency and diabetes. “The plan is not only to focus on obstetrics. We are also going to the community targeting the young marriageable age and the dominant mothers or mothers-in-law of these ladies. This is the plan for the second part of this year. Going out to universities and reaching out to them. Because obstetric is not isolated, you can be pregnant and diabetic, you can be pregnant and lack Vitamin D. They are interlinked,” concludes El Ghadban.

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