Antenatal classes

Why go to an antenatal class?

Most clinics, hospitals and health centres have antenatal classes. They are free and usually run by midwives, with possible input from other health professionals. Antenatal classes are a good way to meet people who, like you, are about to become parents. Some lifelong friendships have been formed while practising breathing techniques! Classes also cover looking after yourself and your baby after birth.

Other non-NHS classes may charge a fee and are usually run by specially trained antenatal teachers, often in their own home. There’s more information in our further help section.

Antenatal classes aim to prepare you and your partner (or whoever will be supporting you at the birth) for what’s to come. They cover all sorts of things that you may have questions about, such as:

  • health in pregnancy including advice on diet and how to cope with minor discomforts
  • what to expect in later pregnancy – including the early signs of labour
  • what to expect during labour, and birth and pain relief options
  • techniques such as relaxation and breathing to help you cope with labour and birth
  • possible problems during labour, and interventions such as Caesarean section
  • exercises for before, during and after labour
  • birth plans
  • feeding and caring for your baby safely.

When to go?

Antenatal classes usually run in two to six sessions towards the end of your pregnancy. It may be a good idea to book earlier, however, so that you get a place in a class that suits you. Some areas run ‘early classes’ where things like looking after yourself in pregnancy, exercise and common problems are discussed.

Who should I go with?

It’s up to you. Discuss this with your partner to find out how they feel about going. Some classes are designed for different groups of people such as teenage mums, mums from the same ethnic groups, or partners. Your midwife can tell you what’s going on in your area.

Bringing your partner gives them a chance to ask questions, to meet others who may share their concerns and to learn how to support you at the birth and during breastfeeding. You can practise relaxation and breathing techniques with them too.

Last Updated: 02 September 2013
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