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Jackman-Atkinson: What to Expect?

December 22, 2019 9:21 AM | Columns

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, Neepawa Banner & Press


NEEPAWA, Man. — Pregnancy, birth and infant care are fraught with challenges, ones both expected and unexpected. Next year, expectant parents in the Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) region will have one less resource to help them navigate this life-changing experience. Going forward, PMH has decided to discontinue their general, group prenatal classes. Instead, they are recommending families contact their Public Health office for an individualized assessment and access to resources.

In addition to meeting with a public health nurse, families are being directed to the PMH website. There, they can find links to resources, including “Baby’s Best Chance,” a Canadian parental handbook that is given out to expecting parents, and web resources put together by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and the provincial government.

Families wanting in-person support and advice are being encouraged to attend Healthy Baby meetings. These monthly meetings are for pregnant women and parents with young children. In Neepawa, two are held each month, for two hours during the day, one at the Neepawa Public Library and one at Neepawa Settlement Services.

The prenatal classes were held outside regular business hours. In Neepawa, there were about four, held on Saturdays, spread throughout the year. In some places, the classes are held over multiple weeks, in the evening. The times were set with the convenience of parents in mind.

The RHA has said the change isn’t due to lack of interest among participants, but a change in how they deliver services. There is a tremendous amount go information available for expectant and new parents out there, but is it the right kind of information?

General prenatal courses provide structured information, taking a parent from pregnancy through to post-partum. It provides information about healthy pregnancy, labour and delivery, as well as what you can expect from life with an infant. One of the great things about general classes is that they provide information you might not think you’ll need, but should know, because the experience rarely goes to plan. This is why it’s vital to have this information, from a reliable source, before you need it. Any new or expectant parent who has found themselves in a frenzy at 2:30 a.m. because the internet told them something they did or didn’t do will cause irreparable harm to their child knows this. The internet is a vortex of parenting advice, it’s like self-diagnosing on WebMD, only worse.

A 2016 report from the Quebec Public Health department found that group prenatal classes can inform, increase confidence and provide a greater sense of emotional support during pregnancy, however, alone, they can’t influence health outcomes. The classes provide one option for parents looking for reliable information about one of life’s biggest challenges. For many, the changes aren’t a huge concern. Group prenatal classes are still available for a fee through private providers and parents who have flexibility in their days can easily meet with a Public Health nurse or attend a Healthy Baby meeting. Expectant mothers with a good relationship with their doctor can be informed about their options and available resources, but what about those who don’t have a regular doctor, let alone one with whom they have a good relationship? Parents who are good at advocating for themselves will be fine, but what about those who aren’t?

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