Antenatal classes are a series of sessions, held in an informal setting, where expectant mothers and often their partners can gain information about all aspects of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.
The classes are held by a midwife or childbirth educator, and are attended by women with similar due dates. They are not compulsory and are usually run by childbirth groups, although there are some available via the NHS. There is usually a small fee for joining a series of classes.
Subjects covered are usually dictated by what the members of the group particularly wish to learn about. This include signs of labour; positions for labour; coping with labour; pain relief options; breastfeeding; and general care of a newborn, including bathing, nappy changing and managing illness.
Antenatal classes are a good way for pregnant women to meet other expectants mothers with the same hopes and fears, as well as establish a valuable support network both during and after pregnancy. Many women who have attended antenatal classes say they have made friends for life.
Classes usually commence in the later stages of pregnancy, although booking in advance is recommended as classes can fill up very quickly.
Additionally, by law, employers cannot refuse a reasonable request from a pregnant woman to attend a class during paid working hours.