The first time antenatal classes were mentioned to me was at my booking appointment when I was only 10 weeks pregnant. Of course I had heard of them before but I think I had sort of assumed it would be something that would be sorted out for you by your midwife or hospital when you got further along. Turns out I was wrong!! If you are just as baffled as I was, I thought I would write this post with some of my research on different antenatal class or course options that I found when trying to see what was best for us.
Here is a bit of an explanation about antenatal classes from the NHS website if you’re totally new to the idea!
What happens in antenatal classes?
You might be able to attend introductory classes on baby care early in pregnancy, but most antenatal classes start around 8-10 weeks before your baby is due, when you are around 30-32 weeks pregnant. If you’re expecting twins, start your classes when you’re around 24 weeks pregnant because your babies are more likely to be born early. Some units offer antenatal classes for women expecting multiples – ask your midwife about this.
Classes are normally held once a week, either during the day or in the evening, for around two hours. Some classes are for pregnant women only. Others welcome partners or friends to some or all of the sessions. In some areas, there are classes for single mothers, teenagers or women whose first language is not English.
The kinds of topics covered by antenatal classes are:
- health in pregnancy, including a healthy diet
- exercises to keep you fit and active during pregnancy
- what happens during labour and birth
- coping with labour and information about different types of pain relief
- how to help yourself during labour and birth
- relaxation techniques
- information about different kinds of birth and interventions, such as ventouse or forceps delivery
- caring for your baby, including feeding
- your health after the birth
- “refresher classes” for those who’ve already had a baby
- emotions and feelings during pregnancy, birth and after
Some classes cover all these topics. Others focus on certain aspects, such as exercises and relaxation, or caring for your baby.
So what are the options?
NCT (National Childbirth Trust) classes: these are classes which you have to pay for and sign up for privately. The only course available to us in our area was the NCT Signature antenatal course, which could be over 3 or 4 weeks. The cost varies I think depending on area, but the price for our area (North East/Teesside) was around £165 for four 3.5 hour sessions. Here is the link to the NCT course explanation: https://www.nct.org.uk/courses/antenatal/signature-antenatal-course
I asked about on Instagram and Facebook for some opinions on the NCT classes as it didn’t really appeal to me paying so much for the course and only being told things which you could learn on the internet or from reading a book. Most people who had been on them said that they didn’t really learn anything they didn’t already know but that it was good for meeting other mums to be who are due at the same time and most of them had kept in touch after the babies were born. So if it is the social aspect of the antenatal classes that you think you would benefit from then I could see how NCT courses would be good for that.
Daisy Birthing/Parent: another paid private option for antenatal classes is Daisy Birthing if it is available in your area. The mixture of antenatal class and pregnancy yoga appealed to me a bit more than the NCT classes but unfortunately the only one in my area was well out of the way so I didn’t end up enquiring any further. I think it would be a really good option for anyone interested in using hypnobirthing style techniques during labour and learning a bit more about a more natural approach to childbirth. https://thedaisyfoundation.com/
Hypnobirthing/Natal Hypnotherapy: this one is a little more specialist and there are a few different providers I believe. Based around the idea that you can use hypnotherapy and breathing techniques to stay calm and deal with pain during labour. I am quite interested in this but I think instead of starting a course (I think now at almost 26 weeks, I’m a bit late to sign up to anything as they get booked up pretty quickly!) I will buy a book like this, Effective Birth Preparation, and possibly the CD that goes alongside it and practice it myself at home. I think for £20 it’s worth a shot if it could help me to achieve the natural, drug-free birth I’d like.
NHS/midwife ran workshops: I think almost everyone gets offered a workshop of some sort by their NHS trust which is usually at the hospital you’ve chosen to give birth at. We have ours booked in for early July and it’s around 3.5 hours long. It covers the basics of labour, pain relief options, using a TENS machine (I have opted to hire one from the hospital so need to be shown how to use it before they will let me have one) and then a tour of the hospital ward.
We also have some free classes available to us that are ran by the community midwives at the local children’s centre so we are signed up for those in early-mid June. There are 3 sessions over three weeks on an evening which last around 2 hours each. I don’t imagine that they are going to be as comprehensive as the ones that you can pay for but it is definitely worth asking your midwife what is available to you in your area.
The main thing I am hoping that they touch upon in the sessions is a bit more information around breastfeeding, as I don’t really have anyone in my family or friends to ask for advice around that. Of course you could know all of the facts and it still might not work for you but I’d like to be as prepared as possible! Our local children’s centre also has weekly sessions for breastfeeding support once baby is here so I’m feeling optimistic that even if we do come across any issues then we will be able to work through it with plenty of support.