My wife is a medical professional. When it comes to the process of child birth she already knows everything that an expecting mom needs to know. Probably way more actually. I, on the other hand, am like a fish out of water. Other than the few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy I watched in college, I have absolutely no idea what goes on in a hospital let alone the maternity ward. So I needed help. Professional help. I needed to attend an antenatal class.
For the uninformed, these are classes you take before childbirth that will guide you through the last few weeks of pregnancy, the delivery, possible complications, and then the first few months with the new baby. Mom will attend the class along with her birthing coach and the “coach” is most often going to be dad. Courses offered in Hong Kong are usually only 4-8 hours in total and are spread over 1-4 sessions, depending on how intensive you want them to be.
It’s often recommended that you and your wife attend an antenatal class when she’s 28-32 weeks pregnant. All dads should attend these classes. It’s very important not to be a distraction or a nuisance during delivery day (D-Day, H-Hour). You don’t want to be asking mom or the hospital staff simple questions that would’ve been covered in an antenatal class. Mom has enough to worry about with pushing a 7-9 lbs human out of her body. The least you could do as a father is have an idea of what to expect and how to stay in your lane. So show some support and offer some help in choosing an antenatal class. Below are my general groupings for class offerings and my thoughts on each.
Public hospital based antenatal classes
If you haven’t read my post on public vs. private hospital options in Hong Kong, make sure you read it first. Once you’ve decided which route is right for you and your family, you can tackle the relatively simple task of choosing an antenatal class.
If cost and safety outweigh comfort and doctor familiarity, then you’ve most likely decided on the path of a public hospital. Lucky for you, almost all public hospitals in Hong Kong offer free antenatal classes. If you want to go above and beyond, they offer many other supplementary classes including lactation and maternity physio, to name a few. A lot of these classes are taught in Cantonese and this is something that expats need to consider. However, their traditional antenatal classes are offered in both English and Cantonese.
Public hospitals in Hong Kong really promote skin to skin contact and breastfeeding so this will be a focus during the antenatal classes. It’s good to know what to expect early on in the process so you’re prepared for what nurses and midwives will emphasize and promote during and post-delivery.
Another benefit of having an antenatal class in a public hospital is they show you exactly what the check in process is and what to expect on the big day. This way there are no surprises for anyone, especially with us dads. Your mind will no doubt be racing and having some of these administrative tasks on auto-pilot will be much better.
Private obstetrician clinic or private hospital
If you’ve decided to go the private hospital route, it would make more sense for you to take your antenatal classes either at your obstetricians clinic (if they offer it) or at the private hospital that you plan on giving birth.
Familiarity is key here. If you opt for classes at your obstetricians clinic, you’ll get to know the midwives who teach the course and you can give them a call with any questions during labor. It’s kind of like attending tutorials in college, you get brownie points with the TA so they mark your quizzes and assignments a little easier. The midwives will be less dismissive when you call them describing your contraction pains and will advise your honestly and diligently on when to go to the hospital. You’ll also be familiar with the points of emphasis for that particular doctor or clinic. For example some may encourage the use of epidural or some may prefer c-section vs. natural delivery.
If your doctor runs a smaller clinic that doesn’t offer classes, your hospital most likely will. Many of the famous maternity hospitals like Matilda, Sanatorium and Adventist offer their own antenatal classes. They come at a fee but you can expect English classes and likely smaller class sizes compared to public.
Adventist, for example, charges HK$1500 for their antenatal classes. Matilda charges HK$2500 per couple. Some hospitals even offer discounts if you end up delivering in their facilities. As a part of the antenatal class, they’ll lead you around the hospital and guide you through the check-in process. Again, it’s best to reduce uncertainty and surprises on the big day.
Independent midwife clinic
The final and probably most luxurious option is to take your antenatal classes at a private midwives clinic outside of a public or private hospital. These classes fill up quickly and aren’t offered as frequently as the two above options. Make sure you sign up early and figure out when schedules align.
In routine births, midwives play a major role in delivery. Often times, a doctor won’t even be present. This is why it’s great to have a professional midwife teaching these courses. They have a lot of experience with routine deliveries. They’ll be able to effectively explain what to expect and any complications that are possible.
Some examples of popular midwife led antenatal classes are Annerley Midwives Clinic and The Family Zone. Give them a call and see if you like their vibe. The class costs are on par or often more expensive than private hospitals/clinics. Prices can range from HK$1500 up to HK$5000 for 6-8 hours worth of classes, per couple.
Being involved as a dad means educating yourself and knowing what to expect. Even if your wife already has everything figured out. Attending class alongside your wife gives her confidence because she knows you care and she knows you’re paying attention. Two sets of eyes and ears are always better than one. Choosing an antenatal class is your first step in helping.
In the end, which option you go for depends largely on your schedule, hospital preferences, and budget. We went with a midwife led class because it felt like the most relaxed and interactive option. Separately, we took a hospital tour to familiarize ourselves with parking and the check-in process.