Doha, 4 November, 2019: Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Al Khor Hospital has helped over 150 women prepare for pregnancy and childbirth by providing free antenatal classes. The classes, offered in English and Arabic, are designed to help women, and in some cases, their husbands, prepare for pregnancy, labor, and normal childbirth.
“We began the group antenatal classes for our expectant mothers in March 2018 and to date, 156 women have completed the program. The main purpose of introducing this service was to encourage and support direct access to midwifery services and to create an environment that normalizes both pregnancy and birth. The service is tailored in such a way that women are given appointments in groups based on their trimester, with topics tailored to fit the unique needs of each trimester. The plan is to incorporate this service with the Al Khor Hospital Antenatal and Postnatal Exercise Program in the near future,” said Ms. Mariama Feika, Director of Nursing and Midwifery, Women and Newborn Services, Al Khor Hospital.
Ms. Feika says the goal of the program is to better prepare women, both physically and mentally, for labor and delivery and the early days and weeks of parenting. She says having a baby is a life-changing event, adding that it can be very stressful for a new parent, which is why husbands are encouraged to attend, subject to the approval of other participants.
“Subject to the consent of all participants, we encourage husbands to attend. Expectant fathers are a very important support system for our new mothers, but our priority is respecting the wishes and culture of our female participants. Fathers only attend if all other participants fully consent to their presence,” added Ms. Feika.
Ms. Feika said one of the major benefits of the classes is that the women who’ve attended have indicated they are better prepared for pregnancy, labor, and delivery. She said there has been a reduced request for pain relief during labor among women who have completed the classes, and she added that feedback received from all attendees has been very positive.
“Most patients are referred to our classes by their attending obstetrician, nurse, or midwife. Ideally, we’d like women in their first trimester of pregnancy to complete the class as we talk about the importance of diet and exercise and how to cope with many of the things experienced in early pregnancy, such as nausea,” says Ms. Feika.
“Talking to women early in their pregnancy allows adequate time to discuss breastfeeding, fetal growth monitoring, and weight control, as well as techniques that will help women manage their labor and delivery, such as breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and muscle toning movements,” added Ms. Feika.
The Patient Family Education team at Al Khor Hospital has been instrumental in providing the classes and Ms. Fagr Al Azab A Alazab, Patient Educator, Nursing and Inpatient Services, says by partnering with women throughout their pregnancy, it is hoped that expectant mothers will gain more confidence and be better prepared to stay healthy during their pregnancy.
“Labor and delivery can be a challenging time for expectant mothers, especially first-time mothers, so one of the benefits of the classes is that it allows expectant moms to meet some of the people who will care for them during labor and after birth. They can discuss their plans and any concerns they have with professionals and other parents,” said Ms. Alazab.
The antenatal and postnatal classes are part of several midwife/nurse-led initiatives provided at Al Khor Hospital. Earlier this year midwifery-led bereavement and vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) clinics were launched. These new services aim to provide education, counseling, and support that will empower women in making informed decisions about their care.
Since its opening in 2005, Al Khor Hospital has been providing general medicine, surgery, emergency care, pediatrics, gynecology, and obstetrics services to the population of the northern region of the country.