POPULAR TV programmes such as Call The Midwife and One Born Every Minute provide millions of viewers with an insight into pregnancy and childbirth. However, these programmes do not reflect reality for many women.

In recent years NHS support through provision of antenatal education classes to prepare pregnant women for labour and childbirth has been drastically reduced.

A report arising from a national audit found the national average for pregnant women in England in 2011 was just four hours for the entire pregnancy, a marked contrast with former provision which typically involved a set of six sessions.

Yet the need for good health education and advice to support women is greater than ever.

Many women, particularly those having their first baby, feel isolated and lonely, and are anxious about their pregnancy, including what exercise is safe to do.

It was with these health and social issues in mind that we set up Zumba 4 Bump, which offers women an opportunity to transform their lives by improving their health and wellbeing during pregnancy.

It incorporates a dance-based exercise class tailored for pregnancy, followed by Bump Club.

Oxford Mail:

  • Dr Lesley Smith helps to co-ordinate the classes

In Bump Club, women discuss health and pregnancy-related topics such as preparation for labour and breast-feeding, providing emotional and practical support for each other all under the expert guidance of an experienced midwife.

Following its launch in 2012, the feedback has been fantastic.

One woman, who attended throughout her pregnancy, and then came along with her baby son, believes those who attend “create a really amazing support system together”.

The specially-created zumba sessions have also been well received, with a typical comment being that: “It is a great form of relaxation, so much fun and contributed to my general physical and mental well-being.”

There are organisations outside the NHS which offer antenatal education classes such as the National Childbirth Trust.

Exercise classes have also been developed specifically for women during pregnancy, and after childbirth.

However, what is unique about Zumba 4 Bump is that it brings mums-to-be and new mums together to share knowledge and support each other.

When we ask our women what keeps them coming back week after week, the words of one woman who came for about five months sum it up perfectly.

Oxford Mail:

  • Instructor George Martini raises a smile

“The exercise is great fun and stress relief as well as keeping us fit. We can all laugh with each other which is important because we all feel a bit clumsy and it’s nice to have people who understand… It’s not just exercise, it’s a way to bond with other women”.

Our vision is that all pregnant women in Oxfordshire will be able to take advantage of this opportunity to improve their health and wellbeing.

As one of our mums commented: “Midwifery, music and dance is surely the best start in life”.