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Some people like to know as much as they can about anything new. Others have more of a ‘let’s see what happens’ perspective. Antenatal classes are a great way to support learning about pregnancy, labour and childbirth.

What exactly are antenatal classes?

These are a series of classes which expectant couples can attend or, digitally connect to during the pregnancy. They are not essential but can be a great way for women and their partners to learn about pregnancy, labour, birth and new baby care.

Generally, antenatal classes cover the entire content in around 12 hours. Classes are can be held on week nights or on weekends for around 1-2 hours at a time. Topics are divided into pregnancy, labour and birth, pain relief, birth positions and early newborn care.

On-line classes are another option for couples who can’t attend classes in person or who would prefer to cover the content in their own time.

Most expectant couples attend some form of antenatal class during the first pregnancy when the experience is all new.

What to expect at the first antenatal class

  • You’ll have a chance to meet the instructor and other couples.
  • You’ll be given some information to take home to read.
  • You’ll be included as part of the group and asked to share as little or as much of your own story as you choose to.
  • General housekeeping information will be covered about dates/times and class locations.

Why would I go to antenatal classes?

  • To build confidence and awareness as you progress though your pregnancy.
  • To help relieve any anxiety or apprehension you may feel about the pregnancy and birth.
  • To have the chance, in an otherwise busy life, to just focus on your pregnancy and growing baby.
  • To have any questions answered in a safe and non-judgmental environment.
  • To help bond with your baby.
  • To involve your partner in your pregnancy and plan for how they may support you during labour and birth.
  • For the social aspect of meeting other expectant parents. Many parents find the group aspect of antenatal classes really supportive and make lifelong friends. Sharing a similar experience can be a great way of connecting.

When should I book my antenatal classes?

There’s no one right time, though the earlier you book the better. There is generally a cap of 6-8 couples per course and antenatal classes can be very popular. You may need to pay a deposit if you’re attending a private course.

Ideally, you’ll have completed your antenatal course by the time you’re 36 weeks pregnant.

Topics covered in antenatal classes include

  • Pregnancy care e.g. nutrition, exercise, self care and general health tips.
  • Planning for labour, including pain relief and recovery.
  • Signs of labour and when to go to the hospital.
  • The role of hormones in labour.
  • Feeling safe and supported in labour and during birth.
  • Stages of labour and what each one means.
  • Labour and birth positions.
  • Relaxation, breathing and mindfulness techniques.
  • What to expect during labour, childbirth and the early newborn period.
  • Preparing for the unexpected in labour and childbirth.
  • Breastfeeding tips and strategies.
  • Newborn baby care.
  • The emotional transition to parenting.
  • Where to go for support after your baby is born.

Where can I go for antenatal classes?

Most maternity hospitals have antenatal classes. Speak with your maternity care provider about where your local classes are will be conducted. Antenatal classes run in hospitals are generally run by midwives, though physiotherapists and qualified childbirth and parenting educators can also coordinate antenatal classes.

Often there are guest speakers who attend such as lactation consultants or a representative Australian Breastfeeding Association or from Playgroup Australia.

Some suburban yoga/pilates/physiotherapy studios also run antenatal classes.

What do antenatal classes cost?

Fees vary depending on who is running the classes. Public hospitals don’t charge, some of the private maternity hospitals don’t charge additional fees for their antenatal classes if the woman is birthing in the same hospital.

Private yoga/pilates/physiotherapy practices charge for a series of classes and sometimes offer a discount if they’re all paid for at once.

Fees can range from $300-$600 depending on whether the woman attends on her own or comes with her partner. Your private health insurance may cover all or part of the costs.

Different types of antenatal classes

We all have our own unique philosophies of life and healthcare. And fortunately there are also a range of options when it comes to antenatal care classes. You could find it helpful to attend more than one type of class.

Common types of antenatal classes offered are

  • Antenatal Pilates and/or yoga.
  • Aqua antenatal classes.
  • Pregnancy exercise classes.
  • Active birth – this is where you can learn about active birthing techniques and optimal positioning.
  • Calmbirth.
  • Getting ready for breastfeeding.
  • The multiple birth association also runs classes.

5 top antenatal classes tips

  1. Be realistic about the information you’ll get from antenatal classes. There’s no way every possible outcome can be discussed.
  2. There will be a range of personalities in your antenatal group. Be prepared for some people to be more enthusiastic and others to be quieter.
  3. There will be some individuals or couples in your group which you seem to ‘click with’ and others with whom you don’t share the same connection. Remember that you’re all there for the same reasons.
  4. You may not be able to make it to every class. Speak with the coordinator about ‘catch-up’ options if you’re keen.
  5. Get out of your antenatal classes what you want to. Every woman, her partner and their baby is individual. Some weeks the content will seem to really apply to you and other weeks not so much. Remember, nothing is wasted.

FAQ

Do I have to go to antenatal classes if I don’t want to?

No, it’s all about choice. But check with your partner to see if they’re keen and don’t assume they’ll feel the same way as you.

Are antenatal classes the same as birthing classes?

Antenatal classes are also called birthing and parenting classes – most cover the same general content.

Written for Huggies by Jane Barry Midwife and Child Health Nurse on 26/04/20.

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