Antenatal Classes are a great way of preparing you & your partner for your baby’s arrival. Offering practical advice on staying healthy during pregnancy and also practical advice about your labour, birth plan and also how to look after and feed your baby
Many areas will also offer specialist breastfeeding classes, these classes offer advice and techniques for those intending on breastfeeding. During this class you will learn about different breastfeeding positions and how to get your baby to latch on, you will understand how the breast works and how to establish a good milk supply, how to recognise your baby is getting enough milk and where to get breastfeeding help. This kind of class is best left until the third trimester so the information is fresh in your memory after birth.
Most antenatal classes start around 8-10 weeks before the baby is due, however if you’re expecting twins you will start at around 24 weeks. Classes are normally once a week for around 2 hours. You are encouraged to bring your partner or a friend.
You will also meet other expectant parents, so you can share stories & advice – lets face it there are some questions you’d rather ask a professional or someone who’s going through the same thing as you.
Think about what you want to get from your classes so that you find a class best suited to you. You are not restricted to how many different classes you attend, so go along and get a feel for them.
You can also rent or buy antenatal DVDs which are a great source of information
Antenatal Education Options
Your midwife will be able to give you details of what antenatal education options are available in your area. Some classes are for women only, or specific ethnic or age groups, while others welcome partners, or someone other than the baby’s father (your mother or a friend). NHS classes are usually free, while you may have to pay for other courses.
Content will vary, but all will include basic information on what happens during labour and birth, and pain relief options, as well as some of the following:
- Exercise during pregnancy
- Emotional wellbeing
- Positions for birth
- Caring for a newborn
- Feeding your baby
- Your own health after the birth
All pregnant women in employment have the right to paid time off to attend antenatal classes, but this is not the case for men, so an evening or weekend course may suit you better.
NHS Antenatal Classes
These are held in your maternity hospital, health centre or local clinic and run by a health professional, often during the day. As they are open to everyone, class sizes can be quite big and time can be limited, so you may find that some topics are not covered as fully as in private course. While NHS antenatal classes traditionally used to include a tour of the labour ward, many hospitals no longer offer this, for health and safety reasons. You may instead be offered a virtual tour.
NCT Antenatal Classes
National Childbirth Trust antenatal classes are small and encourage fathers to attend, with an emphasis on discussion and informed choice. They are run by qualified teachers, often in their own homes, and include sessions on breastfeeding and parenting issues.
Active Birth Classes
These classes encourage you to get your body ready for birth with the emphasis on exercise, often yoga. As the name suggests, active birth classes focus on giving you the confidence to take an active role in the birth of your baby.
You may like to investigate hypnobirthing if you are aiming for a natural, drug free birth. Teaching self hypnosis and breathing techniques, these classes are suitable wherever you hope to give birth, whether at home, in hospital, or at a birth centre.