NHS parentcraft classes are free on the NHS and are a great place to learn how to look after your baby and support you with the information you need for labour and birth. You can bring along your birth partner so they also know what to expect, and for a bit of moral support for you too. It's also a great place to meet other local expectant parents at a similar stage of pregnancy – often a real help. You may well find a group of lifelong friends to share all those exciting ‘firsts’ with, as well as those uncensored chats about baby poo and sleep that only members of the club understand!
Classes usually start in your final trimester, but don't delay booking until then: they can fill up fast.
The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is a charity that offers antenatal classes, information and support for parents all over the country. There's a charge for classes – expect to pay between £10 and £22 per hour – but the upside is that groups are often smaller. So you'll get to cover all the same topics as NHS parentcraft classes with more time to ask questions and really get to know the other parents.
Depending on where you live, you’ll probably be able to choose a course at a time that’s right for you, whether it’s evenings, daytime, or across a weekend. Classes are held in a variety of locations, such as a local hall or nursery, or even the teacher’s home.
As with parentcraft classes, birth partners or friends are welcome, and they’ll learn techniques for helping you through your labour. Classes can get booked up pretty quickly, so don’t leave it too long before visiting www.nct.org.uk to reserve your place.
other antenatal classes
There are lots of other classes that can also help you to prepare for labour. These usually come with a price tag, but some expectant parents find them very helpful to complement the general advice of parentcraft classes or the NCT. In most cases, you’ll go to classes on your own, rather than with your partner, but it’s always worth checking using the site. Some classes start from as early as 12 weeks into pregnancy, while others are focused on the later stages.
- yoga classes specifically aimed at pregnant mums – these teach relaxation and breathing techniques and can help to improve your flexibility and fitness.
- active birth classes – these can help you to explore the best positions for giving birth, especially for mums who want to maximise the chances of a natural birth without medical interventions. They often include breathing exercises and yoga techniques, and you might get to try out a birthing ball or other equipment.
- hypnobirthing classes – based on hypnotherapy techniques, these classes help you to enter a trance-like state, which can help you relax during labour. There's no scientific evidence it helps to reduce pain, but some believe it can keep you calm in the delivery room
- and of course don’t forget our own expectant parent events that are held twice a year at your local Mothercare store.