As part of her preparations for her third child to be born, Whangārei woman, Mihi Allpress booked herself into a six-week childbirth education programme.

However, when lockdown was enforced, she and the other 23 course attendees thought they would miss out on the valuable experience until Te Puawai Ora Community Centre decided to bring the classes into the digital world.

A series of short videos on relevant topics have been filmed by Northland District Health Board midwife Monique Williams and childbirth educator Natasha Sidford and delivered via email to all the mothers.

The mums-to-be can text or email in any questions they might have while watching the films.

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Sending links out via email rather than social media has enabled Williams and Sidford to keep track of how many people have tuned in and exactly who is watching.

They have also been able to offer the classes to women all over Northland, not just in Whangārei, and the series has been shared with other community educators, increasing the reach of the information and support.

Allpress said the videos had been excellent because she learnt new information and was able to watch them again whenever she wanted, which came in handy two weeks before she was due.

"When I went into labour I looked at the labour video again because I wasn't sure if it was the real deal or Braxton Hicks contractions."

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Braxton Hicks contractions can occur the last trimester of pregnancy but are not a sign of labour and won't lead to the delivery of the baby.

The video confirmed it was the "real deal'" and soon after baby Maica was born.

While level 3 remains in place, the online classes will continue. Community midwives will carry on holding their appointments over the telephone instead of face-to-face.

If a mother needs to see someone due to concerns picked up over the phone, they will be seen, with appointments limited to 15 minutes and precautions taking place.

For postnatal visits, phone consultations are taking place and the midwife screens the mum before going into the home.

Some midwives have created a warm, draft-free space in the boot of their car with heat packs to weigh and undertake checks on the babies.

The Whangārei Parents Centre are taking a slightly different approach and run their antenatal classes via Zoom.

Ellie Ball, president of the Whangārei Parents Centre, said that the organisation was taking pride in creating connections between parents who attend classes together.

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"That is why we decided to go ahead with Zoom meetings to try and foster those connections between parents."

During their weekly antenatal classes, midwife AJ Motu'apuaka talks through the topics she would cover under usual circumstances with the parents-to-be watching and participating from the comfort of their home.

Ball said they didn't know yet whether antenatal classes could be run out of the centre again, once New Zealand moves to level 2 or if Zoom was to way to go for now.

She said since there was still a lot unknown around Covid-19 and the impact it might have on pregnant women, the centre would want to play it safe.

Maternal immunisation is available each Wednesday, at the drive-through immunisation clinic offering whooping cough and the flu vaccine.
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