Doctor and Daughter - the fabbest antenatal classes in town

Are you sitting comfortably? (Good, 'cos it's a long 'un.) Then I'll begin... 

I think I've mentioned before that we did some antenatal classes to help us prepare for the advent of our new lives as parents. We're bloody glad we did, because without them we'd be more than a little clueless, and we're bloody glad we picked the ones we picked. 

Enter Doctor and Daughter, a duo made up of Roger Marwood, a now-retired consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and Rebecca Maberly, his - you guessed it - daughter. They have a rather fabulous website packed full of info about pregnancy and birth, and now even more fabulous antenatal classes in SW London. 

Whoa....hang on, you mean this isn't NCT? But everyone does NCT! 

Right you are, this is not NCT. Now, I haven't done NCT classes, obvs, but we were all signed up to do them when I discovered D&D. The allure of doing something a little bit different, and having classes run by a qualified medical professional was too much for me, so we ditched and switched, and booked up with D&D for some Balham-based fun. 

So, what's the deal? 

Six classes, run over five evenings (around one per week) plus a morning's breastfeeding session. I really liked the time commitment - a lot of other classes I looked at ran over full days at weekends (really effing tiring if you're a preggo which, if you're in the market for antenatal classes, you probably are), or involved lots of random mornings and afternoons - great if you don't have a job, not so great for those of us working a 9-to-5. 

You're in a fairly small group (we were one of six couples on the course) which is a perfect size as it allows you to make friends and hear other people's experiences, but without feeling daunted by a massive room of strangers. I went to one of the NHS classes run by our hospital and it could not  have been more different - around 20 couples, which meant very little time for questions and an awkward room of eyes staring at you if you did pipe up. By comparison, the D&D classes were great - I'm a bit of an oversharer by nature, and felt very comfortable asking questions, even when I felt like they were stupid ones! Though I think Matt was relieved I didn't indulge my innate oversharer when we started talking about sex, and reveal all our bedroom secrets (we're still at the once per trimester mark!)

The classes cover a whole range of topics, from health in pregnancy, labour choices and pain relief options and how to care for a baby, to sex during and after pregnancy, the role of your birth partner in labour, and what to buy (and what not to buy) for your impending arrival. 

Why are they so fabulous? 

Have I mentioned Roger's a ridiculously experienced obstetrician? I can't stress enough how valuable it is to have a very experienced medical professional leading the class - I'm sure there’s not a complication Roger hasn't seen or a situation hasn't been in. It was fantastic to hear unbiased, medical advice on things like pain relief, options during labour and choices we'll need to make about mine and the baby's care - Roger presented everything in an objective, factual way and was very honest about the pros and cons of different medical interventions. 

Rebecca's expertise comes from her experience as a mum of two small boys. Rebecca was really bloody honest about her experiences, from the realities of labour pain and what helped her (and made her want to scream!) when she was in labour, to what to expect from the post-birth period (lochia, leaking boobs and all!). Rebecca was very honest about her experiences, and very honest about the pain of labour and how it feels - we weren't fobbed off with any talk of 'just breathing out the baby'. Rebecca also does a fantastic demonstration of how to push effectively! I really appreciated her honesty and feel I'll be much better prepared to handle the pain of labour now I'm not thinking it's going to be a walk in the park! 

Together, Roger and Rebecca are the perfect combo - not at all preachy, no sugar-coating things, and very open to the reality that we all had different attitudes to parenthood. Some of us were keen to breastfeed, some didn't want to, some of us wanted all-natural water births and some were clamouring for all and any available pain relief drugs - not once were Roger and Rebecca remotely judgey or pushing their own agenda, which was fantastically refreshing. I'd heard some less-than-positive things about other antenatal groups, where 'epidural' is a dirty word and mums-to-be are encouraged to avoid medication at all costs, but at D&D there was no toeing the party line, just unbiased, factual advice. I really appreciated that - as a mum-to-be, I want to be armed with information, not sheltered from the realities of childbirth, and I feel much better equipped to make sensible, considered decisions for me and my baby now I know the facts. This was especially good for me as during the course I went from expecting a midwife-led water birth to knowing I'll likely be induced and have a medicalised birth on the labour ward - Roger and Rebecca really helped me though that, and I truly believe I got much more support and relevant information than I would have, had I chosen another antenatal course provider. 

Rebecca and Roger are also super welcoming and approachable - providing an impressive selection of drinks and snacks and an unending patience for answering questions throughout and after the class. 

I LOVED that there was nothing cheesy about the classes. Beforehand, I had visions of being asked to sit on the floor or massage each other - the last thing I wanted after a day at work! Thankfully, there was no awkward touching, no naff and patronising quiz at the end to test we'd been listening (I'm looking at you, NHS classes) or forced 'talk to the person next to you' nonsense. 

Another fantastic thing about the D&D classes was the added benefit of guest speakers. I could happily have listened to Roger and Rebecca for the entire course, but it was great to hear from trained experts in different areas. We had a talk (complete with practical pelvic floor exercises!) from a pilates teacher and pelvic floor physio, and a hypnobirthing taster session with a trained hypnobirthing teacher and doula. We also had a fantastic session with a lactation consultant, which covered everything we could possibly want to know about feeding our babies - how to know when to feed them, how to hold the baby so they can feed most effectively, how we would know if there was a problem and how to cope with the difficulties we might encounter when breastfeeding. 

Each session was also accompanied by really useful handouts on things like what to pack in your hospital bag, the pros and cons of different pain relief methods and how to look after your baby once they arrive. I found this really helpful - it can be a lot of information to take in, even just in two hours, so it was fab to have a reminder to take away in case we forgot anything. 

Roger and Rebecca dealt with some really tricky issues with great sensitivity. While our discussions covered some less-than-happy subjects, I was really glad that Roger and Rebecca didn't shy away from discussing things like SIDS, post-natal depression, complications in labour and abnormalities - it forced me to think about some things I'd been avoiding, and made me feel much more prepared if anything out of the ordinary happens. 

On a contrasting, somewhat shallower, note, we were also given a fab bag of goodies to take away, full of fantastic products for mums and babies! 

I was genuinely sad when our course ended. I feel like I've made some great, hopefully long-term, friendships with the other couples on the course - we've already met up once since - and I've learned so much from Rebecca and Roger. 

I feel so much more prepared now for birth and beyond, and feel a lot more comfortable now I know what to expect and how I can deal with that. I'm just sad that Roger and Rebecca won't be there to hold my hand when I give birth! 

Sounds great! So how much is this going to cost me? 

Our course was £350. In our part of London, NCT was £380 including membership (£340 without) so I think the course was fairly priced. Yes, it's not the cheapest course you could do, but it is most definitely worth it. We both loved it, and were so glad we'd invested the money in such a worthwhile and enjoyable course. 

I don't feel like I know enough... 

If you want to know more there is tonnes of information over on the Doctor and Daughter website. I've also written them a review which covers each of the classes in more depth, which you can find here and here (ok, it's not up yet, but I'll add the links when it is!) 

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