Familien Gesundheits Zentrum – English Prenatal Class

Note: This post is for the benefit of couples looking for English Prental Classes in Frankfurt. It contains detailed information on the exercises we did and what I thought of them. Hopefully with this guide, couples will know what to expect from a Prenatal Class in Germany. For my lovely blog readers, do feel free to skip this post if it doesn’t apply to you.

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Last weekend, Daniel and I attended a Prental Class conducted by Frau Gabriele Kemmler at the Familien Gesundheits Zentrum in Frankfurt. Frau Kemmler conducts the course which spreads over two full days (0930 to 1630) in English. She is a child-birth educator. A friend of mine recommended me to attend her class after having a private session with Frau Kemmler. As the course fills up pretty quickly (usually there will be 8 couples per course), it is best to book yourselves in early.

As there is limited information on what’s covered in these courses in Germany available online in English, I thought it would be a good idea to share with new parents-to-be what we did. Of course, feel free to contact the Familien Gesundheits Zentrum directly for updated/ additional information that I might have missed out.

Day One

Introduction: To break the ice, Frau Kemmler encouraged us to separate from our partners and speak to one other person. We had to ask for their names, how the pregnancy was coming along, any issues, choice of hospital, feelings on becoming a new mum/dad, about their midwives and so on. After 10 minutes or so, we returned to our seats and took turns to introduce the person we spoke to.

My thoughts: It was a really good exercise as it basically was my first time interacting with other pregnant couples in Germany. Also, all our due dates were very close which meant that we were in the similar stage of pregnancy and were able to empathise with each other.

Walking & Breathing: The next thing we did was to get moving. Thank goodness! How boring would a class be if I had to sit through two full days?We walked on our heels (ouch), the insides and outsides of our feet and also tiptoed. The purpose was to regulate our breathing – in through the nose, and out through the mouth. If you’re into yoga, it’s similar.

My thoughts: The relaxation method did work during the class. I had to focus on my breathing to cope with the slight pain in my foot. Frau Kemmler was quick to correct me when she saw me tensing my fingers and told me to relax. I think this is very important as relaxing as much as possible during labour will only speed things up. Think of the feel good hormones!

Massage & Positions: We learnt various massage techniques that our husbands/ partners can do for us during different stages of labour. Props such as the gym ball, tennis balls, hedgehog balls were used. Some women preferred sitting on the gym ball. That’s one position that I didn’t like during the class because I didn’t feel like I had much support and balance from it. Now, here’s the important point – if you’re not comfortable with a particular position, STOP!

Ask Frau Kemmler for an alternative or just do what your body feels right and comfortable. All our bodies are different and the purpose of the course is to show you the different positions so you can shortlist the ones you prefer. Disclaimer: You might end up liking something else during labour!

As for positions, rest assured that you will be taught from kneeling to standing ones. There will be a position for everyone.

My thoughts: The class was very interactive. You’re not there to just monkey see, monkey do. After each exercise, everyone will be asked to share what worked for them and why. The men will also have an active role to play. These exercises were designed to improve our communication skills between each other. We were encouraged to tell our husbands/ partners whether a particular massage technique was more comfortable than the other, whether more/ less force was needed.

For the men, they finally felt like they knew what they could possibly do during labour. The course made them realise that they are also well capable of supporting the women they love and need not feel helpless when seeing us in pain.

Pain Management: The course attempts to teach you pain management. For example, not tense your facial muscles and screech in pain because that releases adrenaline that’s responsible for “fight & flight responses”. On the contrary, endorphins are needed during labour as they act as our bodies’ natural painkillers.

One of the exercises we did was this – I sat on a mat with my back resting against a pillow, legs stretched out. Daniel then had to place one of his knees on my upper thigh and apply pressure. That basically sent most people screaming in pain. However, the “right” thing to do is breathe through it regularly.

My thoughts: Excellent exercise! It was mind over matter for me. I closed my eyes without tensing my facial muscles, inhaled through my nose and exhaled through my mouth. When the pain increased (Daniel took the opportunity to torture me!), Daniel reminded me to relax and breathed regularly next to me. Hearing his regulated, deep breathing calmed my nerves and the pain was much more manageable. Another example to show that men do have duties to accomplish during labour!

End of Day One: Frau Kemmler will ask for feedback. You can tell her what you found helpful and also what you would like her to address on Day Two. She’s a really lovely and helpful lady. So don’t be shy to voice your opinions.

Day Two

Light exercises: We started Day Two with some light exercises to get our bodies moving and most importantly, blood circulation going.

My thoughts: It’s surprising that tiny movements do so much to ease the aches that come along with the pregnancy. I do them daily now and I’ve been sleeping better.

Pushing the baby out: Nothing to be shy about. You’ll be taught the various helpful positions to push your little darling out. We were told the worst position is to lay flat on our backs and in fact, if possible, should utilise gravitational pull. After being introduced all the positions, Frau Kemmler will ask you to pick the position you think would work best for you. Disclaimer: Might turn out otherwise when the real thing starts.

My thoughts: How would I have known all these various positions? The ones you see on TV are usually with women lying flat on their backs, screaming like no tomorrow. Frau Kemmler mentioned some of the props you can find in the labour room and how to use them. I found that very helpful because it means that I have a rough idea what those things are when the time come. I’ve always wondered what the slings were for in labour room.

Review of Positions: The next exercise was to pick positions we found comfortable at different stages of labour. It also meant that the men can have a rough idea of what to do during those stages.

My thoughts: This was slightly hard for me to imagine because I wasn’t in actual pain. Hence my favourite position was to kneel on the mat and balance myself on the gym ball. In that position, Daniel could use the tennis ball or hedgehog ball to massage my lower back. Alternatively, he could use his big, warm hands to rub my upper back gently to take away any tension. We’ll have to see how that works out on the actual labour day. I might hate him touching me then!

C-section: As Theodore’s breeched, doctors have suggested that I might need a c-section. I mentioned it to Frau Kemmler who was very helpful in providing information on what to expect, and the healing process.

My thoughts: Frau Kemmler was speaking from experience and reassured me that the post-surgery pain subsided by the hour. It was good to know she didn’t have issues with breastfeeding either. Most women in Germany whom I know had a C-section were disappointed to not have a natural birth. I personally wouldn’t use “disappointed” to describe my feeling if I had to go through it because if it’s necessary for the well-being of my child, I think I should trust the team of doctors and midwives. I’ll live with an awful scar for the rest of my life, but to have a healthy, lovely boy in return would be worth it. Think positive thoughts!

Baby Care: Some time was spent talking on baby care. How to carry a baby, which carriers are good, what you won’t need for a newborn etc. We didn’t get into details since there’s an entire course on baby care that you could sign up for separately.

My thoughts: I expressed my interest in attending the baby care course. However, I would see how it goes first in the hospital and with the midwife visiting us for 10 days from the time we get back from the hospital. If I feel like I need more expert advice, I might attend the course especially the first-aid course.

Katharina komm Film: At the end, we were shown a 1984 film of a woman in real labour. According to Frau Kemmler the film portrays the different stages of labour extremely well (others don’t show you all stages) and wasn’t too explicit with the birth. Don’t worry if you don’t understand German because Frau Kemmler will interpret the important parts for you. Since it’s such an old film, be aware that German hospitals look better these days. The husband in the film was smoking next to his pregnant wife and so on, but that was in the 80s, so don’t get all critical about it.

My thoughts: I felt nervous throughout the film as I watched the woman go through labour. She was smiling to begin with but as labour progressed and got more painful, she didn’t want her husband touching her. Nonetheless, she remained calmed and breathed deeply. It was very emotional for me when the baby was finally placed in her arms. I had to hold my tears back. I felt happy and relieved that everything went well. It gave me the confidence to overcome whatever pain I might feel. Millions of women around the world go through it, why wouldn’t I survive? Of course I can do it too!

The film also helped the men in the room understand that they have roles to play and that they can support their wives/ partners. Perhaps most men naturally want to lead, but during labour, the women’s bodies do the leading and men will have to follow.

Course details:

Cost: €160 per couple (€130 for ladies, €30 for men)

You’ll receive a receipt from Frau Kemmler as proof that you’ve paid and attended the course. You can then claim the expense (only the woman’s share according to TK Public Insurance) from the health insurance company.

Duration: 2 days (0930 to 1630)

Contact details: Gabriele Kemmler, at 069/59 17 00

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