what to expect from your antenatal classes

I’ve always had a firm belief that knowledge is power. Whether that’s researching a company before an interview, googling a map before a journey or looking at a menu online before I even get to the restaurant, I like to feel prepared before I do something new. And there is no new experience quite like becoming a parent. So I was interested to learn that there are antenatal classes on pretty much everything you need to know about bringing a child into the world, and keeping them alive!

Obviously I’ve had a look into this, and here’s what you can expect from your antenatal classes.

what are antenatal classes?

Antenatal classes are sessions designed to give you information about pregnancy, delivery and caring for yourself and your newborn after birth.

Mum relaxing on the bed with her newborn baby

Some of the topics that might be included are:

• health in pregnancy (including 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 types of birth and interventions
• caring for your newborn (including guidance on bottle and breastfeeding)
• your health after birth
• emotions and feelings during pregnancy, birth and after

Now, I know the idea of going to a class to learn about parenthood can seem very outdated. There’s plenty of information available on the internet, and you’re surrounded by family and friends are offering you advice (whether you’re asking for it or not). However, all those different sources don’t necessarily agree, and they tend to be shaded by people’s personal opinions. Antenatal classes provide you with most of the up-to-date information you need, as well as the different options you have for each aspect of your pregnancy and birth.

Antenatal classes also offer you the opportunity to talk to professionals about any concerns or questions you might be having. So as well as giving you factual information, antenatal classes help you to mentally and emotionally prepare for birth and parenthood.

do i have to go to antenatal classes?

No one is going to tell you that you can’t be a parent if you haven’t gone to at least one antenatal class. While you don’t have to go to antenatal classes, they are available for free on the NHS, and they are great for putting your mind at ease before baby arrives. You’ll also meet other parents who might be expecting at a similar time to yourself. It’s always nice to have other people to share your excitement, worries and fears with. While similar due dates do not automatically make you best friends, you may find it’s nice to have people to talk to during those first daunting months of parenthood.

Mums having a laugh after their antenatal class

If you do decide you’d like to attend some antenatal classes, it’s best to book on as early as possible, as places can go quickly. You should attend them 8-10 weeks before your due date, or as early as 24 weeks pregnant if you’re expecting twins (as they have a habit of arriving a bit early).

what to expect from antenatal classes?

What actually happens at each antenatal class will vary from provider to provider. Some will focus on offering you plenty of information through discussion while others prefer more active participation. Think hands-on activities: knitted boobs, plastic pelvises, toy babies and all. But something every class should do is empower you.

By making sure you’re aware of all your options for birth, delivery and newborn care, antenatal classes aim to help decide what’s right for you and your pregnancy. They shouldn’t tell you what’s wrong or right; just provide you with as much information as possible so you can make your own choices. All of this generally happens once a week, during the day or in the evening, for around two hours.

Then comes the age-old question that has haunted women from the beginning of civilised society: what do I wear? If you’re only going to one class, perhaps wear some comfy leggings or your favourite pair of maternity jeans, just in case there is any activity involved. If you’re doing a course, it probably doesn’t matter what you’re wearing to the first class, whether you’re coming straight from work or are chilling in your trackies. The first class will most likely involve a lot of sitting and listening, and should then set out what you can expect from the rest of the course, so you can dress accordingly. You don’t need to bring anything with you, except maybe your pregnancy notes if you think you may be close to popping!

antenatal classes for partners

Antenatal classes aren’t just for mums-to-be. Bringing your partner along to a class is a great way for them to feel more connected to the pregnancy, especially as they’re not the one physically carrying your little babe. There are even antenatal classes specifically for dads-to-be.

Parents going to antenatal classes

As well as preparing you for the journey from bump to baby, antenatal classes can help your partner know what to expect. They give your partner a better idea of what is going to happen to you during delivery and of complications that could arise. This can help them to stay calmer as you give birth, so they are better able to truly be there for you when you need it most. Antenatal classes also give your partner a chance to voice concerns that they may not want to worry you with.

getting the most out of your antenatal classes

• do some research of your own beforehand so you have a better idea of what you’d like to know more about
• don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how silly you think they might be
• get your birth partner involved
• know that there is no right/wrong way to be a parent

Perhaps the best way to get the most out of your antenatal classes is to be open-minded. They might seem a little outdated when you’ve got the internet at your fingertips but they’re full of helpful information and other parents who are on the same journey as you. Sure, you might not agree with everything being presented, but you’ll probably leave the class feeling that bit more prepared for the exciting, tiring and magical changes ahead.


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