Group therapy: why antenatal classes are so valuable
If you're expecting your first baby, then taking antenatal classes is a great way to help prepare you and your partner for labour, birth and the early days at home with your new baby.
Most maternity hospitals run antenatal classes, and these are usually free of charge. There are also privately run classes such as those run at private birthing centres, by Parents' Centre, or those specifically designed for parents expecting multiple births, and there may be a charge associated with these classes.
Antenatal classes can be a lot of fun. They can help to answer any questions you have about the pregnancy and birth process, and more importantly, they put you in touch with other expectant parents. Many antenatal class groups go on to form lasting friendships, and have regular coffee groups to keep in touch after their babies are born.
Antenatal classes are usually run as evening sessions over a 6-week period, but some centres also offer two-day weekend courses as well. You should plan to start the classes when you are around seven months pregnant to ensure you complete all the classes before your baby arrives. However, it may be necessary to book in for these classes fairly early in your pregnancy to ensure you get a space.
Choosing a class:
Your LMC will give you a list of classes available in your area. When choosing a class you have a few things to consider. Some classes are tightly scheduled and structured and some are very flexible and practical. We recommend chatting to friends and others who may have recently been to antenatal classes to help you decide which style suits you best. A good antenatal class should allow you to voice concerns, ask questions, and give you a hands-on and practical approach to pregnancy. The teacher usually sets the standard for the class, so choose a teacher whose philosophy on pregnancy you agree with. Ideally you will be taught in small groups of 6 or so couples which will allow plenty of interaction with the teacher and a level of intimacy with other couples.
What things will the class cover?
• Tips for staying comfortable during the last few weeks of pregnancy
• Signs that labour might be about to begin
• What to do if you think you might be in labour
• What to expect during the first stage of labour
• Pain management in early labour
• Pain relief options and the pros and cons of each
• What to expect during the second stage of labour
• What will happen should any complications arise during labour
• What to expect if you need to have a caesarean section
• The first few minutes after birth including skin-to-skin contact, cutting the umbilical cord and initiating breastfeeding
• Delivery of the placenta
• Your body after the birth
• Your baby after the birth
• What to expect during the postnatal period (the first six weeks after birth)