Calmbirth launches into Sutherland Hospital following demand for additional antenatal education programs

Birthing options: Clinical midwifery specialist and Calmbirth facilitor Alisha Dewes, with Steve and Margaret Doran at Sutherland Hospital's antental unit. The Miranda couple  are expecting their third child. Picture: Chris Lane
Birthing options: Clinical midwifery specialist and Calmbirth facilitor Alisha Dewes, with Steve and Margaret Doran at Sutherland Hospital's antental unit. The Miranda couple are expecting their third child. Picture: Chris Lane

An extra antenatal education program has been launched for the first time at Sutherland Hospital.

Calmbirth aims to prepare mums-to-be and their partners for a stress-free birthing experience, with the help of trained midwives.

Focusing on "mind and body interaction" in labour, the idea is to empower women.

Sutherland Hospital welcomes more than 1200 babies each year. The hospital's midwifery unit manager of community maternity services, Simone Payn, said there was a demand for the course to be introduced.

"Women are more informed than they used to be. They do research," she said.

"We are excited because this has a particular focus on creating positive feelings towards birth, and they can help outcomes.

A five-year research study conducted with 753 women by Royal Hospital for Women showed that Calmbirth significantly reduced the rate of medical interventions during childbirth, and the use of pharmacological pain relief in labour including epidurals.

"The idea is for a woman to be an active participant in her birth, as opposed to allowing us to dictate things," Ms Payn said.

She says the program does not replace, but rather supports existing services. 

It is targeted at not only first-time mothers, and can be particularly useful for women who have had previous traumatic births, she said.

"It's about preparing their mental state for whatever is going to happen," Ms Payn said. "Birth is obviously painful but this encourages women to let go of their fears and anxiety."

The course also supports fathers-to-be, and supports women in the post-natal period.

"It's focused on the whole family, where partners are incorporated into the journey," Ms Payn said. "They're not just rubbing shoulders during labour, but helping their partner remain calm."

Alisha Dewes is program's educator, and works at the hospital as a clinical midwifery specialist.

"I approached the hospital to see if it would be interested, and because of its successes, I thought it would be a great opportunity to couples," she said.

"We have a great low risk unit, but intervention rates are rising. Sutherland has one of the lowest intervention rates compared to other hospitals."

The Sylvania mum-of-three says simple exercises including meditation, breathing and visualisation can be beneficial during labour.

"Some women may find it difficult to switch off. Meditation can be a bit of a turn off for some, and things don't always go to plan, but everyone can give it a go," she said.

"Any couples having babies in the area - including at St George public and private, and at Kareena, are welcome to attend the course at Sutherland."

The course costs $550.

The first session, 6pm-9pm, is on March 14 and is aimed at women  who are between 24 and 34 weeks' gestation.

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