Virtual prenatal classes popular with new parents in age of COVID-19
Jennifer and David Hackman wanted to be as prepared as possible for the birth of their first child, so the Murrells Inlet couple made sure to sign up for group prenatal classes offered through Tidelands Health.
“We were very excited to get prepared,” Jennifer says. “These classes are something on your checklist to help you feel ready.”
Then COVID-19 emerged and, like so many other parts of pre-pandemic life, in-person group prenatal classes were no longer an option. Instead, Tidelands Health has shifted to virtual classes so expectant parents can get the education they need safely.
“I got the email the in-person classes were canceled, and I was just really grateful we could do the online courses so we could get the information we need before the baby is born,” Jennifer says.
So far, more than a dozen families have participated in the online newborn care, breastfeeding and childbirth classes offered by the health system. Jennifer and David, whose baby boy, Dawson James Hackman, was delivered earlier this month, signed up for all three offerings.
Although parts of the classes would have been fun to complete with other people, Jennifer says, the process was convenient and smooth.
“It was nice because we could do it at our own pace,” she says. “We could finish a few chapters, then take a break and go back when we wanted.”
Kelly Kaminski, director of community health resources, says the health system transitioned to virtual prenatal classes promptly once COVID-19 emerged.
“Pandemic or not, it’s important for expectant parents to benefit from quality prenatal education,” Kaminski says. “Preparation and education really improve the labor and post-delivery experience and set up baby for the best possible start to life.”
In addition to traditional classroom teaching, the health system’s online classes also incorporate interactive components. For example, with a click of a button, participants can ask questions of the health system’s lactation consultants, play games and trivia and watch engaging videos.
“Students have really enjoyed the many features offered through the class,” Kaminski says. “It has worked out really well.”
Although the pandemic changed the Hackmans’ prenatal experience, Jennifer says her pregnancy went well. Dawson came earlier than expected, but he is a healthy, happy baby boy.
“We were overjoyed, and we can’t even believe it still,” she says. “We thought we had a few more weeks. It’s hard to believe it, and it’s really sweet.”
The information Jennifer and David gleaned through the health system’s online prenatal classes was helpful, she says, especially when it came to the childbirth process and breastfeeding.
The childbirth class, for example, provided important insight into labor and delivery and the different techniques and tools available to care providers.
And when it came time to breastfeed, Jennifer was able to lean on the knowledge she learned during the health system’s breastfeeding class to better understand latching and how much Dawson would need to eat.
The breastfeeding support provided to mothers at Tidelands Waccamaw is one of the reasons why the hospital has been designated as Baby-Friendly, a global initiative that recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer optimal care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
“It (breastfeeding) doesn’t come naturally even though it’s a natural process,” Jennifer says. “Having all that knowledge makes those feedings go a little bit easier.”
And although she delivered during a pandemic, Jennifer says she felt safe throughout the process.
To help protect and reassure patients, Tidelands Health has launched “Safe in Our Care,” a series of enhanced safety protocols in place at each of the health system’s 60-plus care locations.
“I definitely did feel safe,” Jennifer says. “The experience was still peaceful and calm.”