Antenatal classes are incredibly useful, especially for new parents! They’re a brilliant way to prepare for the later stages of pregnancy, labour, and childbirth, as well as the early days of parenthood.

But what is an antenatal class, and what should you expect from them? Here’s a rundown:

What is an antenatal class?

An antenatal class is designed to give you information about pregnancy, labour, birth, and parenthood. They are usually spread over a series of classes and are either run by midwives, health visitors, or by private organisations like the NCT (National Childbirth Trust).

Antenatal classes are excellent for new parents in terms of providing information, but they’re also a brilliant way of meeting other soon-to-be parents in your area.

The different types of antenatal classes

There are different types of antenatal classes, and they can get booked up quickly, so it’s a good idea to look into them as early as you can.

NHS antenatal classes

NHS antenatal classes are typically run by midwives. Usually, these focus on pregnancy, labour, and birth. They are free, so places can be booked up fast.

The benefit of these classes is that they typically involve a tour of the hospital facilities, which means you can get a good idea of the environment you’ll be in when you’re giving birth. You can also ask questions, and find out about the kind of pain relief offered during labour and childbirth.

Sometimes, NHS antenatal classes can offer specialist support. For example, if you have mobility issues during pregnancy, you may be offered to attend an antenatal class designed to help you minimise pain and injury during childbirth, which may be run by a physiotherapist.

Private antenatal classes

Private antenatal classes require payment for a series of classes over several weeks.

These classes offer support and guidance in the run-up to labour and birth, as well as more detailed information on the post-birth period, including feeding, sleeping, and caring for your body post-pregnancy.

Two popular private antenatal classes include NCT (National Childbirth Trust) and Bump and Baby.

Private classes cost around £200-300, which covers the cost of the whole series of classes.

What should I expect from an antenatal class?

Typically, you can come along to an antenatal class to meet other people and to gain advice from midwives and specialists.

You may be required to introduce yourself briefly; this is so you can get to know everyone. While this is a bit nerve-wracking, it’s worth going to get to know other parents in your area and to familiarise yourself with the midwives and the hospital (and usually, everyone’s feeling a bit nervous!).

You will then hear a talk from a midwife or group leader, usually on a specific topic. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss what you’ve learned.

Sometimes, there may be practical exercises, like breathing exercises, which will help you during labour and childbirth.

You may also have a tour of the hospital if applicable, and you can ask questions along the way.

Antenatal classes are a great way to meet other parents: I know many people who made lifelong friends from their NCT group, for example, and I’m still in touch with people from my postnatal group (which is a similar series of classes that you can bring your baby to in the months following childbirth).

How to make the most of an antenatal class

To make the most of an antenatal class, you can:

  • Take notes: Sometimes, you’ll be hit with a lot of information at once, so it’s a good idea to bring a notepad or your phone to take a jot a few notes down.
  • Bring a partner: You can bring your birthing partner; it’s a good opportunity for them to prepare, too.
  • Ask questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s the perfect time for it!
  • Chat to people: You may not be there to make friends, which is absolutely fine. But if you do want to build a support network of other parents, this is the ideal place to do it, as you’ll all be in the same stage of parenthood together.

What should I bring with me?

You don’t need to bring much with you, except maybe a notepad and your phone and you should bring your maternity notes with you.

You may also bring your birth plan if you wish; this is a topic that is typically covered in both NHS and private antenatal classes. If you haven’t written yours yet, don’t worry. You can get some advice while you’re at the class.

How do I book an antenatal class?

You can find local antenatal classes by typing in your postcode on the NHS website and then following the instructions on your chosen class.

You can also ask for information at your GP surgery, or during your next midwife appointment.

Finally, you can visit the NCT and Bump and Baby websites directly to book a place in one of the private classes.

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