Becoming pregnant and preparing to give birth is a wonderfully exciting time for many new mums but it can also come with a whole range of worries and fears.
Then add a worldwide pandemic into the mix and a whole new range of emotions can take over.
But as we start to look beyond the pandemic and our emergence from lockdown, we spoke to a dedicated Antenatal Education coordinator who gave us some great tips for preparing for labour and how NI health trusts are continuing to support expectant mums round the clock, despite Covid-19 challenges.
Gemma Winter, Antenatal Education Co-ordinator for the Southern Trust chatted to Be’s parenting podcast Is This Normal? about all things pregnancy.
She explained why we should be ‘prepared for all’ when it comes to getting ready for labour.
She told hosts Sheena McStravick and Sarah Scott: “I’m a great believer in being informed. Read around the subject, the Public Health Agency, our purple pregnancy book, that is invaluable for labour, even our ‘off to a good start’ breastfeeding book is also online, so be informed and please attend your antenatal classes.
“This is a great opportunity for support and they are all virtual, certainly within the Southern Trust and that’s a great way to build a network of mummies, especially now there isn’t that same face to face experience.
“I think being informed particularly about deliveries is important. We are here to promote normality and we love our midwifery-led units and our water births but that’s not the case for everybody. I think it’s really important to read about instrumental deliveries, perhaps caesarean section, and yes read about water births but be informed about delivery options, because the case is different for everyone.”
The mum-of-three said it’s equally important to just ‘be kind’ to ourselves and to not be afraid to ask questions.
“I think as well just being kind to yourself and that’s for labour. for birth, for beyond. We need to protect ourselves in terms of the virus but also in terms of our mental health, so just be kind to yourself and prepare, yes, but give yourself that extra time and take that time out to do something nice for you.
“To me, education is power and knowing your options and feeling like this is really important stuff to you. It’s all about you on the day, it’s all about individualised care and I think that’s really important. I head up a team of midwives and we’re all passionate about empowering and supporting women so please ask them anything, they’re there to help you.”
When it comes to that all-important hospital bag, Gemma is urging mums to get a start on it early and pack some home comforts.
“The biggest advice is making sure you do it in good time, because sometimes these babies come early and we’re not prepared for it so please have your bags ready early.
“Particularly for labour make sure you have your playlist and your charger and docking station, remember on the day you’re the queen of the castle, you’re in control of what happens in that room it doesn’t matter if it’s in the delivery suite, midwifery-led or theatre, remember it’s women-centred care. So if there is something specific you want to be playing in the background then bring it with you and ask the midwives to put it on, particularly early on in labour you should be getting your playlist and playing those happy and uplifting tunes.
“Lip balm is another good one because your mouth gets dry with the gas and air and even a wee fan you can hold to your face, you can get them for a couple of pound just to keep you nice and cool.”
Asked how the pandemic has changed antenatal services, Gemma explained that regardless of the pandemic, no mum should feel they cannot seek out help if they feel they need it.
She explained: “We’ve a bit more of an online presence now and it’s more accessible for the service users and they can email in any queries. There might not be the same face-to-face initially but we are there is the main principle of it all. Even now that we have the NI maternity website which covers all five of the trusts, that is a fabulous resource and we really are encouraging all our service users to go on there and get our details.
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“We are a 24-hour service, we are always here, even when other services were reducing and shutting down through the pandemic we are working tirelessly to ensure the standard of care is still there. We don’t want anyone to be sitting at home worried about something, no question is a silly question.
“If there was something untoward it’s not worth taking the risk, our babies are too precious…and we want you to know we are definitely always there to help in any way. Don’t hang about, we would rather you ring and get checked over..”
To listen to the full chat and take advantage of all of Gemma’s great tips for labour, birth and beyond, check out episode two of the Is This Normal? podcast now.
Coming up in the series the girls will also be chatting to experts on a range of other topics including toddler sleep, first aid, breastfeeding, play, nutrition and screen time.