Birth preparation classes
Taking some time out to prepare emotionally, physically and practically for the birth of your baby and the challenges of early parenthood can help get family life off to a great start. It can also be a nice way to meet other mums expecting a baby around the same time as you!
In Belgium you'll find a whole range of classes, from one-off 'information sessions', to 'general' prenatal classes that cover various aspects of labour and birth and the early postnatal period, to prenatal yoga, aquanatal classes, prenatal singing and many more.
While there is a bigger choice of classes in French and Dutch it is possible to find classes in English, or where various languages are spoken. Here we look at some of the following types of class:
One-off information sessions about birth in Belgium can be a good place to start to find out the basics and ask questions. Ideal for anyone hoping to conceive, or in early pregnancy, sessions typically explore choices in care provider and place of birth, financial and administrative aspects, support and resources.
These courses usually have around 14 hours of 'class' time, which may take place in the evening and/or during longer weekend sessions. They cover a wide variety of topics including coping skills for labour and birth, postnatal recovery, practical babycare, breastfeeding, the transition to parenthood and much more.
Courses typically include a mixture of discussion, information and practical activities that aim to empower parents-to-be and help them to make informed decisions during pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Courses also offer a great start to building social networks and friendships that can carry on long after the birth. Read more about the value of attending a prenatal course.
Many independent midwives also offer antenatal classes (read more about the role of the independent midwife in Pregnancy > Who looks after me?), whether individually or in small groups. See 'Find a midwife' for more information on finding a midwife.
In Belgium, many women attend prenatal physiotherapy sessions as a way to prepare for birth (read more about the role of the physiotherapist in Pregnancy > Who looks after me?), and your 'mutuelle' / 'ziekenfonds' will partially reimburse 9 sessions of physiotherapy. Your gynaecologist midwife will give you a 'prescription' for these sessions around the fifth month of pregnancy.
Many physiotherapists offer group classes which may include: gentle exercise during pregnancy; ways to overcome some pregnancy discomforts; overview of what to expect during labour; advice on coping with contractions including positions and breathing and relaxation techniques.
Mums usually attend these classes alone, and some physiotherapists also run classes where partners can come along to learn how to support the mum during labour.
How do I find a physiotherapist?
If you see a gynaecologist, he/she may be able to recommend a physiotherapist. The advantage here may be that, if you would also like your physiotherapist to support you during labour and birth, your gynaecologist can recommend one that he/she is used to working with, and that is 'allowed' to work in the hospital you have chosen.
You can also find details of perinatal physiotherapists, by location, on www.femme-et-kine.be. It's also worth asking friends and colleagues for recommendations.
Prenatal yoga is a gentle form of yoga that keeps you in shape during pregnancy, explores positions that can be useful during labour and birth, and bring awareness to the importance of calm breathing and relaxation for a low-stress pregnancy and birth. There are many classes on offer, including, in Brussels:
- Active Birth Yoga - Sophie Girard-Sequeira runs 'Active Birth Yoga' prenatal classes for mums and workshops for couples (as well as postnatal yoga) - in English
- Layakari Yoga - Laia Puig Escandell, Udi Malka studio at 51 Rue des Francs, 1040 Etterbeek (in English)
- Shanti Home (in English)
- Radiant Light Yoga (in English)
- Mama Yoga - Gina Scarito - (in French)
- Daikini Yoga - Dominique Ryckaert - (in French)
Espace Bamboo - Rue Hôtel des Monnaies 79, 1060 Bruxelles (in French)
- Carrie R Yoga - Carrie Sutton, at the Yoga Loft, Tombergplein 18, 1200 Woluwe Saint Lambert (in English)
- Emily Gold - Emily runs classes in various locations, and privately. See her website for more details.
Hypnobirthing is method of birth preparation that helps the mother to reach a state of mental and physical relaxation that allows for a calm and peaceful birth. Some members of these two Brussels-based teams of midwives offer hypnobirthing preparation:
www.naissance-amala.be/en/preparations (English possible)
- www.maisondelanaissance.be/preparations/hypnonaissance.htm (English possible depending on midwife chosen)
Prenatal aquagym classes ideally take place in a pool heated to around 32°, and partners are usually welcome too. Classes usually consist of gentle exercises for overall fitness as well as breathing exercises and relaxation techniques that can be useful in labour. Many women particularly enjoy the freedom of movement that water provides (the buoyancy of the water means you only experience about 30% of your weight), especially later in pregnancy.
There are several locations in Brussels that offer prenatal aquagym, including the following pools:
Some hospitals also organise prenatal aquagym classes, e.g. CHU St Luc (classes run in Ixelles), Clinique Ste-Elisabeth though sometimes this may only be possible as of 26 weeks pregnant - ask your gynaecologist or hospital.