Good antenatal education can empower pregnant women to be confident, calm and clear about what is happening to them when the time comes to meet their new arrival. It should also ensure women have the knowledge they need for a healthy pregnancy to give their baby the best possible chance of arriving safely.
However, there are still many women who aren't sure what to do when they feel something isn't right, who are confused by conflicting advice, or who aren't certain how to monitor their baby's movements.
I feel that there is still work to be done to enhance current antenatal provision and improve women's understanding, to prompt them to have discussions with their midwife and to raise awareness of warning signs to watch out for. There is an almost overwhelming number of places to go to get the information that might help put an expectant mum's mind at rest, but to be truly useful this information needs to be both accessible and, most importantly, trusted.
Of course, the information given to any patient before receiving treatment is vital to enable them to fully understand what it entails, address any potential complications, and allow them to be engaged and active in the decision making process.
The difference with antenatal information is that the majority of pregnant women should not be considered 'patients'. In a low risk, uncomplicated pregnancy the emphasis should always be on normality - a natural, unmedicalised process - but this does not mean women should not be prepared for a deviation from the norm.
How can women best be prepared for possible complications in their pregnancy? How much information about pregnancy specific conditions or adverse outcomes should women in early pregnancy be given? If they have no reason to assume anything will go wrong, should we give them cause to worry by talking about such unpalatable topics as placental abruption, prematurity, or stillbirth?
The team of committed mums I work with at MAMA Academy have experienced a range of pregnancy complications, including pre-eclampsia, fetal growth restriction, and the devastation of stillbirth, so it is our mission to promote positive pregnancy outcomes for as many other women as possible.
The UK has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world - could that be due to lack of awareness? I certainly didn't know how common it was until my 1st baby was stillborn 5 years ago and I now feel it's time to break the taboo.
However, there is a fine but very important line between letting women bury their head in the sand, pretending tragic outcomes don't happen, and giving them so many horrendous scare stories about everything that could go wrong, they make themselves frantic with anxiety.
It is vitally important for the health of both mum and baby for women to be in tune with their pregnancy and to recognise when something is 'not right' - but they can't necessarily do this on their own. Encouraging pregnant women to be aware of their baby's movements, or to recognise the symptoms of developing pre-eclampsia, or to consider the seriousness of any pain or bleeding, are important messages that should not be shied away from by health professionals.
My passion is to see pregnant women empowered with knowledge to raise concerns with their midwife, and for midwives to appreciate how vital these concerns can be. Ultimately, women rely on their midwives to recognise when they might need some intervention, but they can also do a lot to help themselves - if only they are given the right information.
The newly launched MAMA Academy Wellbeing Wallets are an initiative designed to deliver these important messages and put key pregnancy knowledge in the hand of every expectant mum. These handy plastic wallets will keep antenatal notes protected but also provide advice for a healthy pregnancy and when women should call their midwife. There is important information about monitoring movements too which could be potentially life-saving.
MAMA Wellbeing Wallets are now available for expectant mums to purchase from our website at www.mamaacademy.org.uk and they are also available for every UK trust to order from us at cost price. I really believe that by reminding mums of key health information wherever they go will support my mission to see more babies arrive safely.