Antenatal classes are really invaluable for any mum-to-be and husband. They can help you to prepare for labour and provide the perfect opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about the birth, which will help you to feel more relaxed.
Why are antenatal classes useful?
A good antenatal class will tell you all you need to know about:
• How you can prepare for birth: You'll probably find out about exercises you can do to help get in good shape for giving birth, get advice about breathing techniques and your husband may be shown some handy massage skills to help you stay relaxed both before and during labour.
• What you can expect during labour and birth: Your antenatal classes will give information about the whole process of labour and birth, including details of medical procedures and interventions. You'll also be encouraged to think in advance about your emotional reactions, and the changes you could expect to happen to both you and your husband during pregnancy and after the birth.
• How to manage labour and birth: You'll have the chance to learn about various birth positions you could use and experiment with before the big day. You'll also be given information about pain relief choices, look at various situations that could occur during labour and work out in advance what you would want to happen.
• Preparing for life with your new baby: Antenatal classes also help you to prepare for life with your new baby, both emotionally and practically. It's a great opportunity to get advice from the health care professional, not to mention other experienced mums who might be there too.
• They're also great for your social life: Not all your friends may be expecting, so they may not be able to relate to what you're going through. These classes give you the perfect opportunity to have a good chat with other mums–to-be and dads who'll have similar concerns and questions to yours. In fact many mums find they stay in touch and become good friends.
Most classes run over six to eight weeks in the last months of your pregnancy. However, you can book your place from 12 weeks of pregnancy and most mums-to-be do this. Why not make a note in your diary and do some research during the early stages of your pregnancy?
What kind of antenatal classes are there?
• Most mums can attend antenatal classes. However, they're not available in every area of the country so check with your doctor for a list of your local options.
• There's a surprisingly wide variety of different types of courses and the approach can vary from class to class, teacher to teacher. For instance, some antenatal classes welcome your husband; others are only for mums-to-be.
• There are also antenatal classes available to suit mums-to-be with different schedules – some are held in the afternoons, others in the evening. Some courses even take place over full weekends.
Type of classes
• Classes just for you: Women-only antenatal classes are great for mums-to-be who just prefer to attend on their own. These classes often allow the group to get a little more in-depth about subjects men might feel uncomfortable with.
• Something to suit you both: Antenatal classes can help you and your husband to prepare together for labour and can allow you to feel closer to each other. Couples' antenatal classes can also really help a nervous dad-to-be feel reassured about the birth and get more involved with your pregnancy. A lot of men find it really useful to find out that others are having very similar experiences and emotions to theirs.
• Second – or third – time around: Refresher classes are sometimes available for women who have already had children, and these often offer crèche facilities. They're mainly to help women update their knowledge about labour and birth or to talk about anything that's worrying them this time around.
• Get active: Active birth classes focus on the use of yoga to strengthen your muscles and to help you feel confident before you give birth. You'll learn how you can use breathing and relaxation techniques to minimise stress. Again, it's important to find a well-trained, reputable teacher. Always ask your physician before taking part in any exercise routine.