Welsh-medium antenatal education classes


When did you first introduce the innovation?

Less than 12 months ago

Please describe the innovation you have developed

In my role as Welsh Language Midwifery Teacher in the Midwifery and Reproductive Health Team in the College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, I have set up and been facilitating a series of informal antenatal education classes through the medium of Welsh.

The classes are held on a four week rolling programme, and are specifically aimed at Welsh-speaking pregnant women, from 28 weeks gestation onwards, as well as their partners. They are held at the Midwife-led Unit at Glangwili hospital, Carmarthen and the Postgraduate Centre at Bronglais Hospital, Aberystwyth. These two venues were chosen as they both lie at the heart of strong traditional Welsh-speaking communities. Each of the four classes covers different aspects of pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period.

What prompted you to develop this innovation?

Upon taking up my duties as the Welsh-medium midwifery lecturer in the University, it soon became apparent that there were some first language Welsh-speaking students who wished to carry out their practical modules through the medium of Welsh. However, they were unable to do this as none of the current Midwifery Lecturers were fluent in Welsh and, whilst a number of practice-based mentors were Welsh speakers, there were no antenatal classes available in this language for women and their partners. This was, therefore, a glaring disadvantage to these students when compared to their English-speaking peers AND women were also disadvantaged by not having this vital aspect of care available in their own language.

Having recently become a midwifery teacher after 15 years as a practising midwife, I was acutely aware that this deficit existed and I set about resolving it.

In your view, what is it about this innovation that makes it different/important?

This is the first time that this facility has been offered in Wales and, to the best of my knowledge, there are no other antenatal classes offered in Welsh in the rest of the Principality.

Welsh-speaking students and service users are clearly likely to feel more comfortable and potentially derive more benefit from asking and having questions answered in their native tongue.

The classes achieve increased social interaction for Welsh-speaking service users, who will potentially enhance their social circle with people of a similar background and culture. This will arguably improve their support networks at a very important time in family life.

To what extent does your innovation make use of existing approaches, resources or technologies?

The classes were developed from, and use, approaches that already existed in the area.

All the materials, teaching tools and props were already available, with some requiring translation into Welsh.

Welsh-speaking women receive the same evidence-based information and recommendations that their English-speaking counterparts can expect.

To what degree has this innovation led to changes in education or clinical practice?

This innovation, which launched in June of this year, has already seen an increase in numbers of women attending (typically increasing from 4 to 12). This increase in popularity has had a consequent increase in the number of students asking to participate, even if Welsh is not their first language.

In the coming months all midwifery students will have a compulsory placement to attend the group to help them appreciate Welsh as a truly living language.

Students who are undertaking their practical modules in Welsh are able to complete all aspects of the modules much more easily.

Women and their partners now have the choice to use their preferred language to help them to assimilate the very wide, complex and vital information around childbirth.

What evidence do you have of the impact of the innovation?

Firstly, there have been many positive comments from students extracted from their placement evaluations:

‘It was great to be able to communicate with fellow Welsh speakers in my mother tongue – this increased my confidence’

‘This provision enabled me to undertake the practical module entirely through the medium of Welsh’

‘Enhanced my ability to offer a first-rate service to all women’

Secondly, feedback from women and their partners elicited from their evaluations has also been very encouraging:

‘Homely, comfortable, and an easy environment in which to talk’

‘The information was presented naturally, with an opportunity to ask questions’

‘I love the fact that they’re in the medium of Welsh’

‘An informal atmosphere where you feel free to ask questions’

‘Thank you for making the classes fun’

‘I wouldn’t change a thing – they’re excellent!’

It is also clear to me, as their teacher, that this has given confidence to first language Welsh-speaking students who I felt might otherwise have struggled with this aspect of their programme.

In order to more rigorously measure the impact of the classes on women’s birth experiences, I have plans to conduct follow-up evaluative interviews with them six weeks following the birth of their babies. The planning for this project is under way.

To what degree has the innovation been disseminated in your organisation or elsewhere?

The feedback received from women and students has been discussed in departmental team meetings.

News of the classes has been set out in an article in a Welsh-speaking journal which is distributed amongst the Welsh women’s institute.

I was a guest interviewee on a Welsh television programme ‘Prynhawn Da’ where I was asked to discuss why and how the classes were set up and how they were going.

I was also interviewed on Radio Cymru to talk about the initiative.

This demonstrates that there is great interest in this innovation.

Please provide details of any plans you have to disseminate the innovation in the future.

I have referred to the work I have done in this innovation as an aspect of my academic work for my teaching certificate in higher education. As part of this, I also intend to write a paper for publication (in English for an English medium professional journal and in Welsh for a Welsh medium publication). I will detail the entire process of this innovation, along with more in-depth evaluation, with an aim to inspire and help others to set up similar schemes in other parts of the Principality.