antenatal classes

Now that you know you’re pregnant, you should be thinking about joining some antenatal classes.

You want to be the best mummy you can possibly be. These classes, also known as parentcraft classes, will help you learn many vital skills that first time parents need to know before their little one arrives. Keep reading to learn what they are like, how they will help you, when to start antenatal classes, and more!


What to expect from antenatal classes

You may have seen antenatal classes portrayed in movies and on television—often the scene involves an uncomfortable daddy sitting on a mat with a very pregnant mummy who’s going blue in the face while practicing Lamaze breathing. While this is very funny, it’s not an accurate portrayal of what usually happens during antenatal classes.

Antenatal classes are group-learning environments that are typically very informal and are meant to be fun. Normally, they take place in the daytime or early afternoon for around 2 hours per week. It’s a place for you to go and learn many tips and tricks that will help you during pregnancy, labour, and finally while raising your child. They also provide you the opportunity to talk with experts, healthcare professionals, as well as other expecting parents.

Furthermore, there are specialised classes for different types of expecting mums: single mums, young mums, mature mums, couples, or even mums whose native language is not English. Often the subject of the classes is adapted to meet the specific needs of those in the group.

If you’re wondering when to start antenatal classes, the answer isn’t totally clear. Some women go to just one or a few classes, starting 8 to 10 weeks before their due date. However, if you are expecting twins or multiples, it is recommended that you start during when you’re 24 weeks pregnant, as there is a higher chance of early delivery. However, some women begin earlier, and many find the classes so enjoyable that they stay enrolled for many weeks.


But, are they important? 

Most doctors, nurses, midwives, and even parents agree that antenatal classes are very important. Not only will you get to learn many essential skills, but it’s also an important chance to develop and nurture important relationships. It often provides a strong bonding experience to couples, but can also lead to lifelong friendships with other parents who are expecting children at the same time as you. 

Even if you have already had children before, most healthcare professionals recommend taking the classes as a bit of a “refresher course” to help you remember some parts of pregnancy and labour.


You’ve got a lot to learn

Although the specific topics in a class can be adapted to the members of the group, there are some basic subjects that will always be touched on throughout the course, such as: 

  • How to stay healthy during pregnancy, including what to eat
  • Techniques for relaxation and stress relief
  • Exercises you can do while pregnant
  • Pain management techniques for pregnancy and labour
  • All about the labour process, including different birthing options
  • How to stay healthy after giving birth
  • Some childcare basics to help you with your newborn baby
  • Information and coping techniques for the variety of emotions you could feel during pregnancy and after giving birth


You pick the place! 

Luckily for you, there are many different groups, both public and private, that offer antenatal classes for expecting parents. Here are a few examples: 

  • The NHS, which provides completely free classes to all expecting parents within the UK
  • The NCT (formally known as the National Childbirth Trust), which offers classes around the country as well; some may charge for classes while others will not
  • Children’s Centres
  • The Daisy Foundation
  • Parentskool

If none of these options fits your needs, you can look for additional antenatal classes online, at local nurseries, or by asking your midwife or doctor for ideas. If you ultimately decide that antenatal classes are not for you, you can still try informational DVDs or books, either by purchasing them or checking them out of your local library. 

Many antenatal classes are in high demand and get full very quickly. The best way to ensure that you get a spot in your preferred class is to start researching your local options as soon as you know you are pregnant. Many centres will let you book several weeks in advance.


Now that you have learned everything you need to know about antenatal classes, it’s time to get researching and find the one that’s the right fit for you! Whether it’s you alone, you and a birthing partner, or you and the daddy who attend the classes, there’s one for you. Think of finishing these classes as passing Mummy 101. Good luck and have fun!