Antenatal classes are designed to teach both you and your partner what to expect during labour, show you how to assist your partner during the birth and prepare you both for life as new parents. Some men may experience anxiety about attending these classes but they are a great way for you to face any fears about the labour process, ask any questions you may have and speak to other dads-to-be about how they’re feeling.
Types of Antenatal Class
There are various types of class on offer depending on what you and your wife/girlfriend are looking for. Women only classes are run mostly for your partner but you may be invited to attend selected classes. If you already feel fairly comfortable and educated about the birthing process, and your partner is happy to attend class alone, this may be a good option for you.
First time parents may enjoy and benefit from couples classes where both partners are required to participate at every session. This can be a great and positive bonding experience for you both and will make your partner feel more at ease.
Some classes may be in the form of a lecture where you will learn through listening and writing only but these days the vast majority of classes are held in an informal manner and offer practical activities like nappy changing and bathing. Discuss with your partner what you would prefer, or perhaps take in a mixture of both.
NHS run antenatal classes are free and usually take place in the labour ward of the hospital you have chosen for the birth of your baby. These are generally run by health visitors or midwives and tend to be quite large to accommodate demand. You may find that the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) also offers pregnancy classes in your area. The NCT is a charity organisation, aimed at supporting parents, and may run a series of antenatal classes over a few days or evenings aimed at providing your with information about labour and birth. Courses are arranged around due dates with the aim of helping parents to be make friends in their local area, and a charge is normally made for these courses.
When Should we Attend?
You should consider attending antenatal classes in the third trimester of your partner’s pregnancy, but many get booked up very quickly so it's best to try and book them a good few weeks in advance. Generally speaking, most classes last for around an hour and are held once a week.
What to Expect at Antenatal Class
You will no doubt have seen a stereotypical antenatal class on television or in films, where breathing exercises are exaggerated for comedy value! Chances are you will indulge in some deep breathing or meditation but there is much more on offer than that.
Classes will cover topics such as your partner’s wellbeing during pregnancy, including a healthy diet and light exercise that she can take part in. You will be taught how to cope during the birth, how you can help to relax your partner and how to stay calm yourself. You may also be shown birthing videos to prepare you for the real event and be told about the varieties of pain relief available to your partner during the birth and what her options are.
Classes will also cover what to expect during your baby's first few days at home, from breastfeeding techniques to developing a good sleeping pattern and include information on baby blues and the signs to look out for following your baby's birth regarding postnatal depression.