Antenatal classes are designed to prepare you for childbirth. Also called parentcraft classes, they show you practical techniques such as relaxation, breathing and postures for labour and birth, babycare and breastfeeding etc.
Antenatal classes are categorised into three types based on the organisations which run them:
Hospital classes: These classes can be very educating if you are planning a hospital birth as they familiarise you with all the procedures and routines. They even include a tour of the delivery room and maternity wards. The groups are usually large and the classes consist of lectures combined with films.
Local classes: These are quite friendly and are close to your home. The groups are smaller than the hospital ones. Your partner may be able to attend the classes on certain days.
Private classes: These are run privately by various organisations like National Childbirth Trust (NCT). Your partner is welcome to most classes and these classes have few people in them.
The class comprises of a group of expectant mothers (not necessarily first time mums). In addition, there is an experienced midwife who runs the class. From time to time, there may be a health visitor present as well to assist on topics like post natal depression, babycare etc.
Partners are not only allowed but are welcome to some or all the sessions. Infact, some clinics have special evening classes (especially the ones involving labour and birth sessions) for partners to attend. However, it may be a good idea to check with the centre first if your partner will be allowed before planning to take him with you.
These classes are split into six to eight weekly sessions and each session may range from 1-2 hours.
Unfortunately the parentcraft classes are not scheduled with just your pregnancy in mind and they are run in batches from time to time. You will need to contact the centres to find out their time table and then reserve a place on the course that finishes nearest to your EDD. A good time to start would, therefore be between 28-30 weeks.
The classes run by the hospital and local centres attached to your surgery are free. However, privately run classes are also available like National Childbirth Trust and Active Birth, which charge a fee.
Your midwife or doctor will give you all necessary information about the locally held classes. They may or may not be able to advise you on privately run classes.
It is best to do so. Privately run classes are anyway small in number and hence get booked up very early. Local and hospital classes are bigger in size but still it is always a good idea to book in advance.
Yes, indeed. They provide the following benefits:
* help discuss problems that you may be experiencing
* provide an informal and relaxed atmosphere for discussion
* you get an opportunity to learn from experiences of others
* teach techniques of childbirth
* provide information on pain relief in labour
* prepare you for the delivery
* prepare you for parenthood by discussing babycare
* discuss your own health after the birth.
* discuss emotions surrounding pregnancy. birth and the early post natal period.
* provide an opportunity to meet other prospective parents
Some centres may run specialist classes for single women and teenagers. Your midwife should be able to provide you information on this.