Antenatal classes provide expecting parents with information about pregnancy, labour, giving birth and early parenthood. You are not required to go to antenatal classes but they are recommended, and you are entitled to take time off work so you can go.
Different types of classes
Research suggests that women who have attended antenatal classes cope far more comfortably with the labour and birth process than those who haven’t.
Some classes cater for all expecting parents but others may be run for more specific groups, including:
- early / late stages of pregnancy
- minority ethnic groups, particularly if English is not your first language
- teenage mothers and older mothers
- same-sex couples
- single parents
- parents requiring a refresher course
- parents expecting more than one baby
- Pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace
- The Pregnancy Book (Public Health Agency website)
Subjects covered in antenatal classes
Although there are many different kinds of classes, the topics covered will be fairly similar.
Antenatal classes are about preparing for labour and childbirth and most will cover:
- the physical and emotional effects having a baby will have during, and after, pregnancy
- how to look after yourself and your baby during pregnancy - including exercises and tips on nutrition
- what to expect in pregnancy, labour and after the birth
- the best ways to relax and the pain relief available
- effective breathing techniques
- some medical procedures which may be required
- baby care
Antenatal classes are also an ideal opportunity for expecting parents to socialise with other people in the same situation.
Friendships made at antenatal classes can be useful in early parenthood when new parents can sometimes feel isolated from their social circles because they now have a baby.
Getting Ready for Baby Programme
The Getting Ready for Baby programme delivers antenatal/ parentcraft education for first time mothers with no major health issues.
The programme includes all the same information as traditional parentcraft classes but it also helps you get to know and develop a relationship with your baby.
At your booking appointment the midwife will discuss your suitability for the programme, and if appropriate, will arrange for you to be booked on to a programme.