A GROUP of mums and dads from Swindon are among the first in the UK to complete a pioneering new antenatal programme aimed at providing support to help parents-to-be cope with the pressures of having a new baby.

The programme, called Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, is being run by the NSPCC from its Swindon base and aims to help participants to set a pattern of good parenting for life. Parents-to-be take part in six antenatal sessions, a post-birth home visit and two postnatal sessions.

The course covers subjects such as infant development, how parenting can affect relationships, health and wellbeing and practical lessons on how to care for a baby and where to get support after the baby is born.

NSPCC midwife practitioner Geraldine O’Driscoll, who runs the course along with children’s services practitioner Janis Davidson, said: “Antenatal classes in the UK tend to focus on the actual birth rather than teach parents about the impact that a baby will have on their lives.

“All too often these classes don’t reach parents most in need, and where they do, dads often don’t feel fully involved.

“Supporting parents-to-be prepare for the roles and responsibilities of parenthood is one of the best ways to get families off to the best possible start. Pregnancy and the weeks immediately after the birth of a baby offer a golden opportunity to work with parents who for various reasons are in need of extra support.

“The first weeks after the baby is born are also a critical point within which to begin challenging attitudes that could lead to a baby being harmed.”

Among those who took part in the first course were 21-year-old Emma Porter and Michael O’Neill, 43, who are parents to Aiden, now 13 weeks old.

Emma said: “I think the NSPCC have got the right idea with this programme. It’s not like a teacher and student, it’s more personal and coming here has made the whole experience more enjoyable.

“I feel I’ve got more confidence and it’s made me realise that I know what’s right for my baby.”

Michael said: “At first I thought I didn’t need it as I already have a 14-year-old daughter but after coming I’ve really seen the benefit.

“The people running it know what they’re talking about. I couldn’t praise Jan, Geraldine and the programme enough, the support has been great.”

NSPCC practitioner Janis Davidson said: “Watching the parents grow in confidence over the past few months has been a hugely enjoyable experience and it’s been great to watch them forge new and hopefully lasting friendships. We’ll really miss them but we’re confident they’ve now been equipped to better deal with bringing up a baby in a loving home.”

Ingrid Anson, manager of the NSPCC Swindon Service Centre said: “We are absolutely delighted with the first group and how the parents have responded to it. It really shows that the programme works. Our new way of working in collaboration with community midwives has proved immensely successful and demonstrates how much we can learn from each other by working together.”

For information on how to make a referral, contact the NSPCC Swindon Service Centre on 01793 431501.