• Rowan Evans

We Love: Better Births Antenatal Classes

Having met on an alternative antenatal class, Steph and I have always been really interested in the way women are educated and informed ahead of the birth of their babies. We found such a variance in the quality and type of information our other friends were given. So imagine our excitement when we heard of Better Births, a new type of antenatal movement, helping mums-to-be keep it real and see the wood for the trees in those vital few pre-birth months. I caught up with the founders of Better Births to hear what these sassy midwives are trying to achieve.

Tell us about your company - what do you do/offer/sell and who to?

Better Births Antenatal ClassesLtd. is a start-up company offering unbiased, supportive and honest antenatal education to expectant parents.

What gave you the idea?

As midwives currently working in the NHS, we regularly come across women who are negatively affected both physically and mentally by their birth experience, simply because they hadn’t been appropriately prepared for the choices they could make, and the path their birth could take. The biggest shock came when clients told us that they had actually been to various sources of antenatal education. If this was the case – why weren’t they adequately informed?

Initially, I started my own business, offering one-to-one antenatal classes. However, I soon realised that working alone I was limited in how many people I could educate, and I wanted to make a difference on a much larger scale. When I moved to a different London NHS Trust, I met Katie - Katie was, and still is, such an inspirational midwife. She inspired me, she educated me, and she became a close friend, as well as a colleague. This was exactly what I was looking for, I wanted an equal partnership with someone as passionate about antenatal education as me.

So, together, after long talks and brainstorming and a HUGE imagination, Katie and I came up with midwife-led Better Births Antenatal Classes, offering group antenatal courses, and bespoke one-to-one education to the mothers-to-be of North London.

Was this always your main career or did you make a change/start over?

Leila: Midwifery has always been my main career and my number one passion, but I wanted to branch out into something private and ultimately be self-employed which is why we started up BBANC. As much as I love caring for women during their pregnancy, I’ve always wanted a family of my own and I don’t like the idea of missing one special moment of it, in that sense I’m quite traditional. I wanted to branch out into something that would still allow me to help women during this time in their lives but at the same time be flexible with my personal life and not be tied down to night shifts and working holidays.

Katie: It was in my first year studying Sociology at the University of Leeds that I realized that I wanted to be a Midwife (great timing!). On completion of this degree I took a year out working in retail before committing to another 3 year undergraduate degree course – and I haven’t looked back. Childbirth, and the subsequent transition to motherhood, is a huge transformation in a woman’s life. I’ve always felt so privileged to be part of this journey with women within the NHS, and now feel through BBANC I am able to empower the same women to be active participants in their care through something as simple as antenatal education.

What are you most proud of about your brand?

We are so proud of what we stand for as a brand. Midwifery is all about being an advocate for women, empowering them, and giving them the knowledge to make decisions at the centre of their own care. BBANC lives and breathes these values – we are there to ensure women are partners in their experience, not fearful of it!

What are the biggest challenges you face as a female founder/woman in business?

The biggest challenge we have faced as women in business is that in 6 months time Katie will be taking some time out of BBANC to have her first bubba – this means that our “man” power is cut in half for a short time. We view being females in business as an entirely positive and empowering experience, especially in our line of work!

And what is the best thing about being a working woman?

We are passionate about being equal partners in our personal relationships. We were both raised by single mums who are strong independent working ladies - through them we have learnt the importance of women supporting women to achieve their goals.

The best thing about being a woman running BBANC is knowing that we’re making a huge difference, simply because of the knowledge we have gained throughout our careers. Our day to day is far from mundane – it’s exciting, challenging, and above all fun! Again, it’s women supporting women!

If you have children, can you give us an idea of how your role as a mother has shaped your career? 

Katie will get back to you in 6 months!

Why do think it’s important to be re-educationing women about birth in the U.K.?

Working on the front line of maternity services in the UK, the main thing we notice is FEAR. Women assume labour will be a terrifying and painful experience, and this is mainly due to what women see in media coverage – we’ve all watched One Born Every Minute!

The focus is rarely on the powerful and satisfying experience that childbirth can be. It is imperative that we re-educate women, empowering them to feel confident in the experience of birth.

Where women are educated - given truly impartial, unbiased information – they become participants in a notoriously medicalised environment. We feel that women should be in control of their birth experience, not fearful of it!

What’s wrong with the current set up?

Over the years there has been a shift from birthing in the home environment to the medicalised hospital setting. Whilst we are starting to see homebirth rates creeping up, women are still fearful of what might happen. We often hear “I’d prefer to be at the hospital, near the doctors, just in case”. A recent birth place study found that only 58% of women in an obstetric unit are likely to have a normal birth, versus 88% of women laboring at home. Labouring in an obstetric unit sets women up for intervention, which they often don’t feel equipped to critique during their labour. Antenatal education allows women the opportunity to make truly informed choices in any birth setting.

What’s your one message for mothers to be? 

As the quote goes - eduction, education, education! It really is key to achieving a better birth experience. Educate yourself, empower each other, and just keep telling yourself YOU CAN DO THIS.

Are their any women, in business, history, or your personal life, who inspire you, and if so who and why?

Leila: Beyonce inspires me. A representation of a woman who does not appear to follow trends, who carries herself with dignity and with class, who is a business woman, performer, entertainer, mother, daughter, friend and wife! She goes on tour and preaches to other women reminding them that no matter what experience you encounter in life, you are PERFECT. If I can stand on a stage one day and speak to millions of women about how amazing they are, about how they’re not alone, and if no one in the world cares about them — WE DO! We care. Another example of a woman in this world who seeks to be the voice for all females in society, who seeks to empower them through her words.

Katie: Sheila Kitzinger – the natural birth activist. Having had the opportunity to attend one of her readings as a Sociology student, clueless about what life was going to bring, she ignited a flame in me. It was only after meeting her that I realised I wanted to devote my career to supporting women. And if anyone can truly equate a contraction to an orgasm – they win my vote as one of the most inspirational women in my life.

What’s next for your brand?

To grow BBANC, so that all women welcome midwives to their door, or arrive at the door of their local maternity unit, ready to enjoy their birth experience. If we can achieve that – we’ve succeeded!