Antenatal Classes: What to Expect?
What are antenatal classes?
Antenatal classes happen in addition to antenatal care and are generally just recommended and optional. They generally focus on the labour and what happens in the hours and days after. These kinds of classes can greatly supplement your knowledge however and can also be a great place to meet other impending parents and be reassured that your experience and fears are not all that weird really.
And what will they include?
There is a bit of a breadth of variety when it comes to antenatal classes these days. The basic course you will generally undertake happens at the start of the third trimester and is generally across 4 to 6 sessions which will likely cover information such as:
· The stages of labour
· Natural ways to speed labour up or bring it on if you are overdue
· The differences between vaginal birth and caesarean section, and what each entails
· What to bring to the hospital
· What to expect in the delivery room and possible complications
· Options for pain relief
· Some pretty nasty videos of people actually giving birth which will make you wonder if it’s not too late to back out (hint: it’s too late to back out)
· Beginning lactation or bottle feeding your baby
· What tests to expect your baby to undergo after she comes out to check everything is ok!
· How to hold your baby, wrap her and bathe her
· How not to completely poop yourself once you get the baby home (it’s not guaranteed that you won’t still do this anyway)
But options for classes about types of pregnancies and births are as varied as the clouds in the sky. You could also take classes in the following:
· More extensive breastfeeding classes
· Antenatal exercise or swimming
· Prenatal yoga and yoga for giving birth
· Prenatal massage and massage to assist labour (never not a good idea for your support person to learn)
· Natural birth options such as Lamaze breathing or meditation
· Water birth
· Home birth
· Coping with multiple babies, both in and out of the belly
· Classes for specific types of mums, such as teenage mums or older first time mums
Do I have to do them?
No, you don’t have to do any of them generally. Some private hospitals may require you to attend a minimum course or tour of the facility however, but this varies from provider to provider. You may find them beneficial if you are nervous about the whole process so should consider going along. If it’s not your first birth you may skip them for subsequent pregnancies; I did.
Do I have to bring a support person?
Generally no, but this is highly recommended. If you have someone you know you want to be in the delivery room with you then this person would benefit from coming along to any antenatal classes, especially if they have not previously given birth themselves. They can ask all their own questions, voice concerns and hear what you will be needing of them. Attending these classes together can make you both a little more sure of yourselves and each other in what is going to be a pretty uncertain time for you both.
What are the benefits of attending?
There are a number of benefits of attending classes:
You will learn about the different stages of labour and when to call the hospital, or more importantly when to suck it up and watch a few more hours of Netflix before bothering the medical staff again.
You will learn about the different types of pain relief and how they affect your baby, and you can then make some guess-timations about what you are going to ask for when the big moment comes.
While you might have done extensive online research about every aspect of the birth, it’s likely that your partner could be a little bit more clueless (or in denial). Joining you in these classes can open their eyes a little bit and answer their questions. (It can also make them run away leaving a little cloud of dust behind like the roadrunner, so watch out for that possibility too)
If you utilise a class run by your chosen hospital you will usually get a tour of the facilities which can ease your mind a little as to all the unknowns, and where to head to on the day.
What are the practicalities in terms of time and cost?
This is hard to say and will vary from course to course. Your basic course could be a whole day, a whole weekend, or around 5 two-hour sessions. Extra courses you undertake could again be one or many. Because it is all optional your time commitment is really up to you. A lot of the classes you can also attend online and in your own time, like when bub is jumping around your belly at 2am and you can’t get any sleep.
Usually those run by your primary healthcare provider are at no additional cost to your antenatal care. Classes such as yoga, meditation etc could cost around $15-$25 a session depending on number of sessions you sign up for, the expertise of your instructor and the size of the group.
Antenatal care are compulsory visits to your doctor during pregnancy. These essential visits to the doctor during pregnancy ensure the healthy growth of you and your developing baby, all throughout pregnancy. To learn more about Antenatal Care, read here.
Antenatal classes can help you and teach you a lot, but are not a mandatory part of your pregnancy. Many mothers will not attend these for subsequent births. They are however extremely beneficial in their own right and can only serve to enhance what you know and how you feel about what is facing you.
There is much about the future which you can’t predict or control, but this is one opportunity you have to inform yourself as best as possible. You might as well grab a hold now of all the information you can to be prepared.