Antenatal classes Q&A
Antenatal classes, which are often also called childbirth or parentcraft classes, are offered to all women and their partners in the second half of pregnancy.
These classes, which may be attended by groups of 8–10 couples, are designed to give parents advice on various aspects of pregnancy and childcare, and boost their confidence as they prepare for parenthood. In certain circumstances, the classes may be for women only in order to promote a more open discussion.
Who runs the classes and do I have to pay for them?
Antenatal classes are held, often free of charge, by healthcare professionals such as a midwife, health visitor or doctor, either at your local hospital where you are due to have your baby or at other centres (some hospitals may charge for classes, so check before booking).
Classes are also run locally by the Irish Childbirth Trust (Cuidiu), sometimes at the home of one of the pregnant women, although these usually need to be booked well in advance and have to be paid for. Cuidiu have accredited antenatal class teachers in Dublin, Cork, Drogheda, Athlone and Mullingar. Check your telephone directory or the Service Directory to find out where your local ICT group is based, or call 01 872 4501 for your nearest class.
Classes through local organisations such as the ICT have the advantage of putting you in touch with other first-time mothers in your area. Those offered by the hospital in which you will deliver have the advantage of allowing you to become familiar with that particular hospital’s routine, staff and facilities.
How long do they go on for?
Antenatal classes typically run for 8-10 weeks, on a once-weekly basis, with each session lasting for two hours. They usually start around 8-10 weeks before your due date. Classes are sometimes held in the afternoon, while others may run in the evening, which may allow your partner to attend.
How will antenatal classes help?
Antenatal classes cover a range of subjects related to pregnancy, labour and birth, and if you’re a first-time mother then you’ll probably find them particularly useful. For those of you who have already had a baby, the sessions may help to refresh your mind and update you about certain aspects of pregnancy and childcare.
Antenatal classes are informal and fun and give you the opportunity to discuss any issues with couples in a similar situation to yourself, exchange ideas and make new friends. Furthermore, involving your partner in the classes will perhaps allow him to have a better understanding of pregnancy-related issues and to recognise his central role in supporting and helping you through giving birth and looking after your newborn baby
The classes not only focus on helping you to understand the process of pregnancy until the birth and how to cope physically and emotionally, but also emphasize staying healthy both during and after your pregnancy. They will also teach you about relaxation, breathing and exercise methods that will help you through your pregnancy and labour. Additionally, since the classes discuss the various procedures available for labour and delivery, they may be able to help you to decide on your birth plan.
If the sessions are held at your hospital, you may also have the chance to look around the labour wards and perhaps meet the people who will be looking after you.
Antenatal classes also focus on caring for your baby, this topic being supported by demonstrations and practical tips on feeding, bathing and changing your baby. Postnatal classes that you can attend while in hospital after you have delivered your baby are frequently held.
Postnatal classes that you can attend while in hospital after you have delivered your baby are frequently held.