Fears for mothers as hospitals up the ante for birth classes

Interested in home birth, hospital birth or private midwifery care? Questions or comments? Email Melissa Maimann or call 0400 418 448. Link

THE cost of antenatal classes should be means-tested and made uniform across all hospitals, according to the Australian College of Midwives.

Increasingly, NSW hospitals are using private contractors to run antenatal classes because of tight budgets, which means women are being charged hundreds of dollars ...

The cost varies by up to five times between hospitals.

... increasing fees were shutting some women out and the system was unfair.

... ''Antenatal education is not seen so much as core business any more so I think that's a real problem.''

... ''Women who hold Commonwealth Health Care Cards have access to free or reduced-cost antenatal classes in many services. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis after referral from midwives, obstetricians and social workers,'' he said.

Sarah Monch ... attended antenatal classes at Royal Hospital for Women, which charges $270 for a six-week evening course.

Mrs Monch ... thought it was not expensive and had already paid $475 for a private birth class weekend in Bowral.

''I think I got value out of both the classes and I'm glad I did them,'' Mrs Monch said.

By contrast, Nicole Harris ... paid $55 ... at Campbelltown. ''There was so much that you learn that you don't know.

''I wouldn't have had a clue about anything, I would have been lost if I didn't do that class.'' ...

The cost of childbirth education will rightly vary from location to location to account for differing overheads. While the cost may seem prohibitive, women do have other options to hospital classes: reading, internet, talking to friends and so on. I have always believed that the best value childbirth education is not the classes that are provided by hospitals, but the classes that are provided by independent childbith educators. These classes will not only talk through hospital policies, but also all the other options for care.

While the cost of independent classes cost may be prohibitive to some families, their brith experiences are more likely to be rated as extremely positive and the rates of intervention in the birth are lower.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting 0400 418 448