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Written by Caroline Meyer

Antenatal classes are also known as birth classes or pregnancy classes. In these classes you can learn a lot about pregnancy and childbirth. This will also assist you in deciding on a birth plan and making you feel a little less stressed about the birth of your child. Once you know what to expect, it can be a lot easier to contemplate labour and birth. You can find one on one classes, hospital-based classes, independent classes or ones that are focused on something in particular. Look around and see what is available locally before you decide. You can even take online classes if there are no physical classes available.  Different classes will present different things, but here are a few of the lessons that may be taught in most antenatal classes. 

You may get a tour of the hospital if it is a hospital-based class. They will also advise on their policies. You can learn about the different options that may be available as well as what to expect during the labour and birth. They will generally run through some of the in-vitro development of your baby and answer any questions related to this. 

They will then usually discuss some of the early parenting skills such as breastfeeding, bathing baby and more. You can discuss what is taught in the classes you have chosen to attend as many have their own focus and agendas. Research has shown that women that attend birth classes are likely to have much better birth outcomes in general than those that don’t.  Do some research and make sure you book in advance to ensure you have a place in the class you choose. Once you have decided on a birth plan, you might want to look at classes that specialise in the type of birth you are hoping for.  Try and ensure that you have booked your classes before you are around 24 weeks of pregnancy. Your classes should start at around 30 to 32 weeks. This will give you enough time to practise what you have been taught in class and allows you to ask any questions and process it before the actual labour. This also gives you enough time to finalise the type of birth you are wanting and to discuss it with your doctor or midwife. This means you still have a little time to change what you want and still be able to prepare adequately. This also helps you have something in place should your baby come a little earlier than expected. You might also not want to attend classes at 36 to 40 weeks if you are feeling uncomfortable and don’t want to go out for extended periods of time. Doing the classes earlier means you don’t need to attend in the last few weeks but still have all the benefits of having attended the classes. 

While it is possible to take the classes even earlier, it is more beneficial to take them in the last 8 to 10 weeks to allow you to confirm the birth choices you have decided on, which you might not have in place in the early days. You are also more likely to have a lot more knowledge on your pregnancy at this point and it will be easier to remember things that are fresh in your mind when it comes time to birth your baby. 

You may also be a lot more interested in listening to lessons on breastfeeding, bathing and taking care of a newborn in the last trimester than you would be in the first two when you are suffering with morning sickness, tiredness and getting used to carrying a little person inside you. Breastfeeding is quite a volatile topic in some circles, but you will most likely be educated on the pros and cons without judgement. The more mums learn about breastfeeding, the more common it is becoming but for those who choose not to, bottle feeding is an option and may also be discussed in these classes. 

Focused groups allow women with high risk pregnancies to get more information and be informed on the possible risks and how to mitigate them as far as possible. This can lead to a much more positive birth experience as well. These groups may also have options for mums that are expecting multiples or children with potential disabilities. Learning more about what can be expected and how to cope can help new mums deal with day to day living after their babies arrive. 

Should you attend classes even after having had a baby or two? It is always your choice, but no two pregnancies are the same and you may want to try a different birthing option or learn more about what you are experiencing this time around. And even if all your births are pretty straight forward, there is no harm in brushing up on your knowledge. As technology develops, you may find that birthing options change or improve. It is always good to know what is available to you. It is also a good idea to take your birthing partner or spouse with you to the classes. They can learn what will be happening during the birth and what to expect. This can also help them support you more effectively during labour and the early days of having a newborn around. 

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