Louise Broadbridge
Louise Broadbridge

When to start antenatal classes

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about when you can start antenatal classes. However, it is probably a good idea not to start them too early, as you’ll want everything you learn to be fresh in your mind when the time comes to have your baby.

An ideal time to take an antenatal class is anytime after your 20-week scan. However, some people like to wait until they are nearing 30 weeks for fear they may forget everything!  Also, if you are expecting twins or there is another reason why you may go into labour before your due date, it is a good idea to start your classes earlier so you have time to cover everything before your baby arrives.

You may also want to look for classes that are designed specifically for people who are expecting more than one baby. If you are not sure what is available in your area, ask your midwife for details.

When should I book my place for an antenatal class?

At Let’s Talk Birth and Baby, we always have enough spaces for people to be able book onto classes as they are run live via Zoom. However, if you like to be organised, I would advise booking after 20 weeks.

The NHS has historically always provided antenatal classes at the hospital; however, since the pandemic, these are not as easy to come by.  Many hospitals have replaced face-to-face classes with educational videos.  Again, ask your midwife what is provided by your maternity team.

There may also be a range of other options in your area, offered by other organisations or private companies. These antenatal classes will usually cost money to attend, and, like the NHS classes, places will be limited.  You may also want to check the qualifications of the teacher, as they are often not taught by midwives or doctors.

If going to a class in person will be a challenge or you prefer the idea of learning online in the comfort of your own home, Let’s Talk Birth and Baby offers a variety of classes and a free online antenatal class to get you started.  The sessions are held live, and participants will receive class notes afterwards.

What is an antenatal class?

Antenatal classes are a great way to learn more about pregnancy, labour, and birth and a way to help you feel prepared and allow you to make informed decisions. Many antenatal classes will also cover useful information about looking after your newborn, including feeding and safe sleep.

The content of sessions will vary depending on who your class is being taught by. But in general, they will cover topics like staying healthy and active during pregnancy, how your emotions may be affected both before and after your baby arrives, and information about labour and birth.

This will usually include how to tell when you are in labour, what you can expect, and how to cope during the birth, including information about the pain relief options available. Some classes will also teach natural strategies to use during labour, including relaxation techniques and hypnobirthing.

We would always advise attending classes that encourage your partner to attend too.  After all, you are in it together, so it is great if you can get prepared together.

Attending antenatal classes in your local area can also be a good way of meeting other pregnant women who will be having their baby at a similar time to you. This can be a good way of making friends with those that are in the same situation as you.

Are there any classes I can do in early pregnancy?

When you first find out you’re pregnant, it can be such an exciting time, and you may be keen to start finding out as much as you can about the journey you have ahead of you. While the majority of antenatal classes are aimed at the later stages of pregnancy, there are some options for women in the first trimester.

Let’s Talk Birth and Baby runs an early pregnancy workshop to help parents-to-be feel more prepared. The free online class lasts for an hour and is suitable for people in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The session covers a wide range of pregnancy topics, including what you can expect when it comes to antenatal appointments, what vitamins you should be taking, and how to cope with morning sickness. It also includes some important information about antenatal classes for later in your pregnancy.

Sign up for a free online antenatal class