Antenatal or prenatal classes may come in various forms, but all have the same aim – to help prepare you for labor, birth, and early parenthood. Your doctor may be able to recommend a class or your hospital may offer them as part of the pregnancy care package.
It’s recommended that you and your husband go together for antenatal classes and breastfeeding workshops. It may help you to have a better birth experience, as well as prepare you for coping in the early weeks after the birth. Classes tend to be small, so you and your husband can take part in them actively.
Why do I need to go to antenatal or prenatal classes?
Though they aren’t compulsory, antenatal classes can help you and your husband to focus on your pregnancy, and help you to be prepared for labor and birth.
Your antenatal teacher can help you think about labor and birth and become a parent, and give you time to ask questions that you may not have at a busy doctor’s appointment. If your classes address early parenthood, you’ll also be better prepared for the practicalities, and the highs and lows, of parenthood.
You’ll meet other parents-to-be during the sessions. Some classes are booked according to your due date, so you may meet women or couples whose babies will be born at a similar time.
What topics do prenatal classes cover?
The content of the classes varies from place to place. Some concentrate purely on physical and emotional preparation for labor and birth. Others provide a more rounded course for pregnant women and their labor partners. In general, antenatal or prenatal classes cover topics such as:
- Looking after yourself in pregnancy, including suggestions about good nutrition, preparation of healthy foods and what not to eat.
- Various breathing techniques for managing pain in labor.
- Options available for a pain – free delivery.
- Relaxation techniques.
- Prenatal yoga and asanas for maintaining flexibility and stamina.
- Traditional remedies to handle common problems associated with pregnancy such as back pain, acidity etc.
- Preparing for labor and birth.
- Using music and reading to bond with your unborn baby.
- Maintaining good communication between you and your spouse through pregnancy.
- Interactive discussions on preparing mind and body for pregnancy and beyond.
- Learning the art of a proper pregnancy for you and your baby.
- Learning how to change nappies and swaddle your baby.
- Breastfeeding and benefits.
These classes may suit you if your husband is unable to accompany you for the classes or if you’d prefer not to have your husband there. These classes may come in handy, especially if your maternity hospital does not allow a birth partner or if you prefer to have a female labor partner.
Many women enjoy the close bond that can develop in women-only classes, where you often have the opportunity to discuss subjects that may not be covered during couples’ classes. These courses sometimes include a session for dads.
These are usually for first-time parents and help both parents to get involved in the preparations for labor, birth and early parenthood.
Going to a couples’ class gives you and your husband the chance to focus on your pregnancy and make it feel more real for you. Classes also provide practical information about being a labor partner and a new parent. Your husband will have the chance to try out techniques, such as massage and breathing support, in preparation for his role. It’s also an opportunity for you both to meet other parents-to-be.
These may suit you if you’ve had a baby before. Most antenatal classes respond to what you want to know, but this is especially true of refresher classes.
As a second-time mum, you may want to relive your birth experiences and be updated on research and changes in birth practices. However, you may feel confident about feeding, so issues such as formula feeding versus breastfeeding may not be discussed. These courses sometimes also offer sessions for couples and dads.
Some units offer evening or day sessions dedicated to topics such as multiple births, active birth, water birth or vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). You’ll meet women, who are concerned about the same things as you and be free to talk and ask questions, as well as have help with planning your labor.
When should I book my prenatal classes?
It’s a good move to book your antenatal classes early, especially if you are planning to work for as long as possible. Your doctor will be able to provide more details, so do remember to ask about this during your doctor appointments.