Antenatal classes help you and your partner to prepare for the birth of your baby and are full of lots of helpful tips on how to look after your new arrival which is especially useful if it's your first child. They can also be a great place to meet other expectant parents in your area who go on to become friends for life.
Information about different birthing tools – They may look a little scary at first glance, but these clever tools can help you and your baby out when things get a little difficult. You can learn more about ventouse here and forceps here.
Understanding how your body works in labour, the choices that you have available to you and finding tools to remain calm and confident is more important than ever.
There’s lots of evidence to show that a good antenatal education reduces the chance of intervention in labour and birth and contributes to making it a more comfortable and positive experience for you too. And thankfully, in the age of the internet, you can get this from the comfort of your own home as well as in-person so the choice really is yours.
When should I go to an antenatal class?
Antenatal classes usually start at around 8-10 weeks before your baby is due and take place every week, lasting around two hours per class.
Essentially, it depends on which ones you decide to go for. Antenatal classes run by the NHS are free to go along to and you’ll often receive information about these through your midwife. You’ll learn how to look after and feed your baby as well as stay healthy through your pregnancy. It’s worth remembering that groups for these classes are usually quite big with a focus on the practical aspect of giving birth and a focus on providing guidance.
However, there are also plenty of other private classes or courses that charge a fee such as NCT, which give in-depth information but also tend to feature smaller groups and are a great opportunity to form lasting friendships for both Mum and Dad. There’s a reunion organised after all of the babies have been born, so your bundle of joy will have their very own group of mates right from the outset, and many mums find their NCT group is a lifeline in the early months.
You won’t lose holiday
If you’re worried about needing to take holiday if you have to take time off work to attend your antenatal classes, don’t stress! If you are an employee, you have the right to take paid time off for your antenatal appointments which includes classes such as relaxation and parentcraft. Visit citizensadvice.org.uk for more information.
Making a note in your diary - You will typically start antenatal classes when you are around 30-32 weeks pregnant, although if you are expecting twins, it’s a good idea to start your classes at 24 weeks, as your babies could be born early.
Booking early - Classes can quickly fill up, so book early to make sure you don’t miss out on a place in the class you want. Course provision can vary from area to area so it’s worth investigating what’s available close to where you live early on in your pregnancy - as soon as your 12-week scan.
Bringing your partner - Women-only classes are available if you’d prefer but a couple’s class will enable both you and your other half to feel involved in the preparation for birth and parenthood. It’s a lovely bonding experience for the three of you and will help your partner get an idea of exactly what you’re going through and what they can do to help.
Antenatal classes online
Although the NHS classes are free, there are some online courses that you can take from the comfort of your home. Here are some free and paid-for options to consider.
This service offers mums-to-be the option of eight different courses. You can choose individual ones or select the whole set – whichever suits you best. Individual classes cost £12.50 each or the whole course costs £80.
They may be well known for their fab products but did you know My Expert Midwife do their own classes too? The midwife delivered antenatal classes will help you to gather all the knowledge you need for labour, birth and your journey into parenthood.
Things to consider when selecting an online antenatal course
Who is providing it and is it evidence-based?
How long is it? (A 1-hour course is obviously going to provide less information than a 6 hour one!)
What’s the approach and does that sit with your own take on birth? Eg. Is it doctor-led and more medical, is it focussed on one type of birth, is it more holistic?
What does it actually cover? (Crucial things to know about would be the physiology of birth, pain relief options- both natural and medical, birthplace choices, interventions, and possibly breastfeeding and postnatal info too).
What kind of ongoing support is there? Are you able to ask questions like you would in an in-person course?
This content is brought to you by Mother&Baby, the UK's number one resource for pregnancy and parenting advice. Our mum journalists work closely with our medical panel of midwives, doctors, paediatricians, child development specialists, parenting experts and many other field specialists to ensure the educational content you find here is up-to-date with the latest evidence-based medical information and accepted health guidelines. For over 60 years we have brought you the latest information and inspiration in our mission to excite and empower you in your journey through motherhood.
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Lorna is the digital executive and regular contributor for Mother&Baby. After running the Yours magazine website which specialises in content about caring for kids and grandchildren, she has now brought her expertise to the UK's #1 leading pregnancy and parenting magazine. Lorna specialises on a range of topics from potty training and nutrition, to everything and anything that will keep your tot occupied!
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