You'll be able to discuss your plans and any worries with professionals and with other parents. Classes are also a good way to make friends with other parents who are expecting babies around the same time as you. These friendships often help parents through the first few months with a baby. Classes are usually informal and fun.
Choosing a classThink about what you hope to gain from antenatal classes so that you can find the sort of class that suits you best. Places in antenatal classes can get booked up early. It's a good idea to start making enquiries early in pregnancy so that you can secure a place in the class that you choose. You can attend more than one class. Ask your midwife, health visitor or GP, or contact the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). The NCT may charge for antenatal classes.
Speak to your community midwife if you can't go to classes. The midwife may be able to lend you a video or DVD about antenatal care, or you may be able to rent or buy one.
The classesYou 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, triplets or more, start your classes when you're around 24 weeks pregnant, because your babies are more likely to be born early.
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 and help you during labour
- 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
- how to give birth without any intervention (such as ventouse or forceps delivery) if that's what you want
- information on different kinds of birth and interventions
- 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
The number of different antenatal classes available varies from place to place.
Our experiencesAs a first time mummy, I firmly believe that knowledge is power. As soon as I found out I was expecting Baby C, I invested in tons of books, apps and soon found that my Kindle which was previously bursting at the seems with 'chick lit' was fast taken over by a bundle of pregnancy books which myself and Mr C would sit for hours and read together.
I'm a firm believer that being educated on a subject is vital. After all, neither of us have ever done the 'being pregnant' malarkey before therefore to eliminate as much of the 'What the hell do we do now?!' fear factor when the D Day arrives, we decided that antenatal classes were the definite way forward.
Coming to that decision was relatively easy. The fundamentals however, not so. A quick search of Google showed that there were all sorts of options to go for especially if we were prepared to pay. At first, I was a bit of a snob and presumed that private was best however, the more I thought about it, the more I worried that some private classes wouldn't be suitable. I worried (and I probably shouldn't have!) that I wouldn't 'fit in' at some of the classes available in my local area. I panicked that: at 22, I may be younger than some of the other mummies-to-be; myself and Mr C are unmarried (shock horror!) and I hadn't made up my mind of how I wanted to feed my baby yet. I shouldn't (but did) stereotype however I had a preconceived perception of how private classes would be and I was worried that myself and Mr C would stick out like sore thumbs!
With these worries in mind, we eventually opted for the NHS Parent Craft classes although we didn't hold out high expectations. How wrong we were. The classes ran over 4 weeks on a Thursday evening 6.30pm - 8.30pm. Much to Mr C's initial annoyance, they lasted 2 hours and did mean that he'd miss some of the Euro matches!
We had a lovely midwife called Nicky who was wonderful and full of information. I found it reassuring that all the information that she gave us was relevant to the hospital where Baby C will be delivered and we were given the opportunity to ask any questions at any point throughout the sessions.
Some people are quick to knock the National Health Service however I can genuinely say that the classes we attended were excellent. I would advise anyone who's coming up to the stage of booking antenatal classes, to most definitely consider NHS run classes. After all, they are free so you have nothing to loose. As with everything, it's a postcode lottery so they may differ vastly area to area however if you're lucky enough to find a gem of a class like the ones we attended, then you've hit the jackpot.
I now feel much more relaxed and positive about Baby C's birth. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power and I feel that, all the information that both myself and Mr C picked up, has equipped us to be prepared for the birth as much as we possibly can. From a man's perspective, Mr C (who begrudgingly attended at first) said that he found the classes excellent and would recommend any father to be to attend alongside the mummy.
What were your experiences of antenatal classes?