What antenatal classes are right for you?
Depending on where you live and what kind of person you are will make a big difference to what antenatal classes will best prepare you for the birth. Think about what kind of ideal birth you hope for but also be practical about all the birth options you might have to opt for, and this will help you focus on what kinds of class will suit you and your partner.
Antenatal class options
The kinds of classes available to you will vary depending on where you live. Most people living within easy reach of a hospital or clinic that they plan to give birth at will be offered some form of free antenatal class programme. However even those who want to give birth at home will still be eligible for some free NHS antenatal preparation if there are classes within easy travelling distance.
Once you are attached to a hospital, clinic or local midwife team, ask about antenatal classes – even if you don’t really need to attend these until you are seven or so months pregnant, they can get booked up way in advance.
If you plan to have your baby at a private clinic or hospital, ask your care team what antenatal classes they offer as part of or in addition to your care.
In addition to these, there are other antenatal options you can pay for, from local National Childbirth Trust (NCT) groups to luxury trips away with antenatal class sessions built into a weekend of pampering and relaxation.
What to expect from antenatal classes
On the most basic level, antenatal classes in whatever from they take, should include:
A tour of the facilities you are most likely to be using. If you plan to have your baby in hospital or at a clinic, this is a good chance for you to get a better picture of where you will give birth. Ask about facilities such as parking, birthing pools, meals, and visiting hours, and the possible availability of single or private rooms.
Advice on what happens in emergency situations. It is useful to know in advance about the procedure for an emergency caesarean even if you hope this will not be needed.
• Labour signs
How to spot the first signs of labour, how to cope with the early hours (breathing and other techniques), when to call your midwife and what the three stages of labour entail.
• Pain relief options
Talking through how these are administered and what the benefits might be.
• Hospital policies
What procedures are most likely to happen – before, during and after the birth. This includes immediate care for you and your new baby.
• Your birth partner
The role of your birthing partner. Things they can do to support you through the rest of your pregnancy and during labour and birth.
• Newborn care
What happens next – midwife care for you, how to look after your new baby, and breastfeeding skills.
How other antenatal classes can help
Groups like the NCT have regular meetings. If you join, being able to share experiences with other women like you or those going through a second pregnancy, can help build your confidence, ahead of the birth.
Other private courses which champion particular methods of birth, such as Active Birth or Natal Hypnotherapy, are great for couples who want to go beyond the basics, especially in fields of alternative birth. High profile names such as Janet Balaskas and Zita West offer special sessions or weekend courses on themes like Yoga for Pregnancy, Water Birth and Hypnobirthing.
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