York Hospital to launch virtual antenatal classes as attendances drop


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York Hospital is set to become the first in the country to scrap its antenatal classes and replace them with virtual lessons for expectant mothers to watch online.

The hospital made the decision to adopt an internet alternative because less than 25 per cent of pregnant women were attending antenatal classes.

Filmed in the hospital maternity suite, the videos will feature five members of maternity staff giving the same information that they would deliver in a class, covering issues from the early stages of labour to breastfeeding.

The radical step faced criticism from parenting charity NCT, however, which said it was 'disappointed' in the hospital's decision to fade out antenatal classes, particularly for those expecting their first child.

Policy Advisor Elizabeth Duff said: “Antenatal classes are not about a one way transfer of information, they should allow for a personal approach.

”There is no dialogue with online lessons and they make it difficult to see that there are other choices are available. People expecting babies not only need to know information, but how to use it; they need to be given the mind-set to feel empowered and confident in their new role.“

But a spokesperson for York Hospital made clear that pregnant women will still be allocated a midwife who they will see six to eight times during their pregnancy and will be able to answer any questions.

The hospital said: ”This is about moving with the times, people go online first for their information these days and so some people think that they don't need classes as a result.

“However, there are a lot more complex pregnancy cases these days, so by doing the classes online midwives are released and can give more one on one time to the people who need it most.

”The online classes are pioneering and are done from the heart and passion of the hospital, in order to reach out to more of our own patients.“

The hospital has also confirmed that antenatal classes will still be held for more vulnerable groups, such as teenage mums, for whom the group atmosphere is more beneficial. Multiple birth classes will also be available.

The videos are due to be finished this week and will be launched in October, with the last classes at the hospital being held in December. This crossover period is to allow for real time feedback to go alongside the positive work already done with the Maternity Services Liaison Committee. 

The virtual antenatal lessons will be available on York Hospital's website and YouTube channel, free of charge.