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Antenatal Classes: All You Need to Know

If you are expecting your first baby, an antenatal class can be a brilliant way to help you prepare for the birth of your baby and how to cope with the first few weeks of life with a newborn.

Antenatal classes are a great way to help you to prepare for the delivery of your baby, ask any questions you might have about your pregnancy, and are a great way to meet other expectant parents. Meeting other parents-to-be at an antenatal class can be a great source of support, especially when you are on maternity leave and are navigating through life with a newborn.

In this article, we will discuss what to expect at an antenatal class, why you should go to one and how to find one in your area.

antenatal classes

What is an Antenatal Class?

An antenatal class is a group session where expectant parents meet with a pregnancy and birth professional, usually a midwife, to discuss what to expect during pregnancy, how to prepare for the birth, and how to care for the baby when they are born.

Antenatal classes are designed to help guide you through your pregnancy and birth and will provide you with important tools on how to keep your baby safe and cared for.

These classes are open to parents who are pregnant and expecting a newborn baby and are a great place to find support on your parenting journey.

What is covered in an Antenatal class?

What is covered will differ from class to class but the basics usually include;

  • Preparing for the birth
  • The different ways you can give birth
  • Knowing the signs of labour
  • What happens during labour and how to cope – including pain relief options
  • What to expect after the birth
  • Feeding your baby – including breastfeeding information
  • How to care for your baby
  • Emotional wellness following your baby’s birth

The midwife will be able to answer any questions you have about giving birth, labour symptoms, and what to expect.

During an antenatal class, you will discuss the different methods of giving birth including water births, home births, assisted deliveries, and c-section deliveries. Your midwife should be open to discussing pain relief options and you may have the option to take part in breathing exercises that are useful during the delivery of your baby.

In some antenatal classes, infant first aid training is offered which is very useful as it differs from the first aid advice given for adults, and you can find out information about the birthing facilities at your local hospital.

How can I find an antenatal class near me?

  • The NHS provides free antenatal classes and you can find out where they are held by asking your community midwife, or by checking with your local hospital.
  • There are also many privately run antenatal classes available that offer a more comprehensive program and may include first aid training, however, you will need to pay for these classes.
  • There are also many online birthing classes available for people to join remotely, which is great if you are unable to get to a physical class or are short on time.

Below is a list of the best private antenatal classes available. Please note that some of these classes are dependent on your location.

antenatal classes

When should I attend an antenatal class?

Most classes will advise when on the best time to attend but generally you should attend between 8-10 weeks before your baby is born, which is around 30 weeks of pregnancy or during your second trimester. You will want the knowledge you learn from the class to be fresh in your mind when your baby arrives so you are prepared for the labour and the weeks following.

If you plan to attend an NHS antenatal class check with your midwife regarding the best time to attend and how to register.

However, if you are planning on joining a private antenatal class, consider enquiring early as places can get booked up and there is usually only one class in your local area.

Do I need to attend an antenatal class?

Although attending an antenatal class is not essential they are a great resource for anyone having a baby, especially those expecting their first child. Parenthood can be daunting and overwhelming and antenatal classes can give you knowledge that will help you during the birth and the first few weeks at home with your new baby.

They are also a great place to meet other expectant parents and many people form a close bond with the people they meet at an antenatal class. Having a support system in place when you have a baby can be an invaluable resource.

Antenatal classes can also be a great tool for parents who already have children, particularly if there is a big age gap between children. Advice and knowledge regarding pregnancy, labour, and parenthood is always changing and being updated so even if you already have a child, you can still find an antenatal class useful.

What about after my baby is born?

The focus of antenatal classes is usually on preparing for the birth of the baby, although there is information on caring for your baby after birth. However, if you want more support after your baby is born there are other resources available to you and you can find out about them through your midwife and hospital.

The National Childbirth Trust runs many classes for postnatal care including baby first aid and advice on weaning.

SureStart offers family health and early years support and has many centres throughout the UK. They also offer childcare and provide access to free classes and support on a range of services such as breastfeeding, and child development.

After your baby is born your local community midwives and health advisors will usually offer support and wellness checks and usually have open sessions where you can take your baby to be weighed and talk to a health advisor about any concerns you may have.

Antenatal classes can be a great resource for expectant parents and a great way to help put your mind at ease regarding the labour and delivery of your baby.

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