Preparing for your baby’s birth is a big deal, so it’s time to check out those classes
Forget lectures on breastfeeding and pain relief – these days, antenatal classes offer loads more, and they're often about having discussions.
‘Chatting in a group helps you get answers to things that concern you and think more deeply about decisions you have to make – such as where to give birth – which can boost your confidence,' says Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at parenting charity NCT.'Classes also give you the space to focus on yourself and your baby.’
Another big bonus? You’ll meet others in the same situation and make new friends. So what are you waiting for? There are lots of options available - just pick one that’s perfectly suited to you.
For the basics
Free classes are available through the NHS, led by midwives or sometimes NCT-trained antenatal teachers. Ask your GP or midwife about local ones, but be warned: there’s often high demand, so you’ll need to book yourself in early. The classes usually run for three to six weeks, often in the evenings, although some take place over the weekend.
For an in-depth experience
Classes run by the NCT are smaller, usually go into more detail and may have a stronger focus on the emotional side. The intimacy of the classes means you’re likely to forge strong bonds with your fellow mums-to-be.
Prices vary depending on where you live and the type of class on offer, but you can expect to pay from around £10 an hour.
For a natural birth
While a standard antenatal class leader should be able to answer questions about natural approaches, for the full experience you’ll need to seek out active birth or hypnobirthing classes. Prices vary, and outside big cities it may be harder to find classes.
For individual needs
While there’s a huge variety of different women at NHS antenatal classes, if you feel out of place for whatever reason, you may be able to find classes more suited for you. For example, in some areas there are classes for women only, single mums-to-be and teens. Chat to your midwife about what’s available locally.
For a refresher
Even if you’ve already got a child, you might benefit from antenatal classes, particularly if you had a difficult birth last time or are in a new area where you don’t know other mums-to-be. The NHS and NCT both run refresher classes, so talk to your midwife about finding one.
For at-home convenience
If you live in a remote location or can’t get to local classes for some reason, you could try the online option. Cheaper than conventional private classes, they are usually video-based sessions. You can then email or call a midwife with questions. While they lack the social side, they can be a good option if you can’t make it to local classes.
Want special attention and a touch of luxury? Try an antenatal retreat. Usually, these run over a weekend and classes are sandwiched between spa treatments and gourmet meals. Prices vary, but it’s safe to say this is the most expensive option. Still, if you’re planning a break anyway, it could be a good way to combine TLC with fact-finding. Genius!