Information is power! The more you know and understand something, the more confident you will feel. That is very true and especially true when you are facing into the last stages of pregnancy, labour, delivery and early newborn care. The more that you know about what these stages involve, the more confident and relaxed you will be so it is very worthwhile to attend antenatal classes during your pregnancy. It is also very important that your partner, who will be supporting you through these stages, can also attend antenatal classes so that they too will know what to do to best help and support you. Birth partners get very little attention and yet are a vital part of the process and can be left feeling very stressed, awkward and unprepared for the experience if they have not had the opportunity to attend some training for their role too!
Although not compulsory, more and more women recognise the importance of acquiring antenatal education and are attending either hospital based classes or in many cases, private antenatal classes. Most hospital based classes are free but some hospitals also provide classes at weekends or evenings for a fee. Private antenatal classes are generally held at weekends and charge a fee which generally ranges from 100 to 200 euro per day for a couple. Choosing which class is suitable for you can be difficult – how do you know what course to choose and what is right for your needs? The first piece of advice we would offer you is to do your homework! You should research what is available, what the course will cover, who leads the course and so on before choosing the course that is right for you. Most courses will have a website that provides all of this information so research is not too difficult. Talking to friends and family about courses that they have attended is also useful but do ensure that you do your own research too – remember what works for someone else may not work for you so make your own choice.
To help you, we have suggested some of the areas that you should consider when choosing your antenatal class:
Duration and times of classes
Some courses are run over a number of weeks for 1 to 2 hours per session, some are run at weekends for a full day, some are run over 2 half days and so on. What frequency and duration will work for you and for your partner? If you are both working, it may be easier to attend the full antenatal class over one day at the weekend. If you decide to attend over a number of sessions (e.g. 4 by 2 hour classes), then be sure that this is not putting too much pressure on you. You are entitled to take time off work to attend your antenatal class but remember that you have to get yourself to/from the class each time so see how this fits with your schedule.
If you want your partner to attend all or some of the class with you, find out what way the different classes approach this. Can partners attend the full suite of classes? If it is a one day class, can partners attend the full day too? Remember also that the times, frequency and location of the classes must also be accessible for your partner so this needs to be considered too.
Generally, if you are choosing a class, try to pick one that is easy to get too. The last thing you need to do is have a 2 hour journey to a class if you could attend one just as suitable nearer to you. Obviously, the importance of the ease of access to the location will be influenced by the number of times you will have to attend so if it is a multi-class course as opposed to a one day course, you need to ensure that the location is easy to get to, provides parking if you need it and so on. Remember also that comfort is important for you and the location should be able to provide comfortable surroundings and plenty of toilet facilities!
When to attend
The dates of the classes and the availability are vital to your decision. Antenatal classes should be attended between week 28 and 36 of your pregnancy so when choosing a class, ensure it is available within this timescale. When you decide on the class you want to attend, book early. Many classes book up fairly quickly so it is better to have your place secured with the class that you prefer.
Classes can vary in the number of attendants per class. Some classes will limit numbers to between 5 and 12 couples per class, some will have up to 50 couples or more. What will work for you? A large class will generally be delivered in theatre style with lecture delivery and a fairly strict schedule (with a large group, the class cannot afford to take a lot of individual questions). Smaller groups tend to be more personal and interactive, giving lots of opportunity for questions and discussion. Think about what you would prefer. Perhaps you don’t like to ask a lot of questions and would prefer a larger group? On the other hand, you may like to be able to have a more relaxed class with lots of interaction and opportunities to question and discuss issues that are important to you. If that is the case, then you should make sure that you choose a class with smaller numbers.
Make sure that the instructor on the class is qualified to provide you with the class. Generally, the instructor should be a qualified midwife with a number of years experience in a maternity hospital. Try to choose a class where the midwife is currently practising with maternity hospital to ensure that she is up to date with the latest developments in antenatal education and care. Practices and facilities are constantly being updated so it is important that your midwife is actively involved the latest practices.
Most antenatal classes will cover the same topics but to help to guide you in your choice of class, ensure that the following topics are covered:
- The last trimester – changes and common discomforts and how to deal with these
- Labour – signs & symptoms, the 3 stages of labour
- Hospital – when to go to hospital, what to pack for you, your labour partner and your baby
- The role of your labour partner and what they can do to support you
- Pain Relief – explain different forms, for example gas, air, drugs, TENs etc
- Types of delivery; natural, induction, caesarean section & instrumental
- Post Delivery – what to expect
- The 1st 6 weeks – Basic Newborn Care
- Feeding information – Breast & Bottle feeding
- Immunisation information
- Postnatal care for yourself
- Practical tips on your new role as parents, resuming intimate relationships etc
In these difficult economic times, price is an important consideration for everyone! Check the price, what it includes (e.g. information pack, refreshments, lunch, parking) and make sure that you are getting value for money. If the class is delivered by a qualified midwife, you may also be entitled to a contribution from your health insurance provider. Check this with your provider. If you are entitled to a contribution from your health provider, make sure that you get a receipt from your antenatal class provider.
If you are interested or want to have a particular type of labour or delivery, for example a home birth or hypnotherapy for pain relief, try to find a class that has some information on this or is at least, open to supporting you in your choice. You can also search the internet for information on your preferred type of birth.
Our Antenatal & Newborn Care Classes
Did you know that Help Me To Parent run one day private Antenatal and Newborn Care classes? We have a wonderful midwife who is passionate about antenatal education and is also practicing in a leading Dublin maternity hospital. She will teach you all you need to know to prepare you and your partner for this wonderful stage of parenting.
Our classes are held on weekend days (either Saturday or Sunday) in The Clarion Hotel at Liffey Valley from 9:30am to 4:30pm.
Your class fee includes the following:
- Small class size (Maximum 12 couples)
- Light breakfast and tea/coffee
- Light lunch of a selection of sandwiches and tea/coffee
- A comprehensive course pack with notes and information on pregnancy and newborn care
- Practical demonstrations with anatomical models and other equipement
- A range of items for you to view including TENs machine, breast pump, baby baths etc.