Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes help you to prepare for labour, the birth of your baby and becoming a parent.

Many maternity hospitals and health centres offer antenatal classes free of charge. Face-to-face classes are cancelled because of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Some are offering online antenatal classes for women booked into their hospital.

Getting information

Talk to your GP, midwife or your public health nurse about where to find information to help you prepare for the birth of your baby and becoming a parent.

This might include the hospital website and leaflets, this website and the My Pregnancy book. You will get this book at your booking visit (your first appointment at the hospital).

Online resources

Online resources may also help if your antenatal classes have been cancelled.

These include videos about pregnancy, labour and caring for a newborn (University Hospital Kerry), online courses (National Maternity Hospital) and learning hubs (Rotunda Hospital).

There are virtual tours of some maternity units and hospitals.

Check with your maternity unit or hospital about online resources that may be available.

Find your local maternity unit or hospital.

Topics covered in antenatal classes

Topics can be anything from how to know you are in labour, what happens during labour to visiting times at the hospital.

Check your hospital’s COVID-19 (Coronavirus) visitor restrictions.

Examples of topics are:

When to start antenatal classes

Most formal antenatal classes start when you are between 26 to 32 weeks pregnant.

Classes are participant-led. This means that the members of the class decide the pace and have a say in the topics discussed in the class.

If you are expecting twins, or more, consider starting antenatal education early. Your babies may arrive early.

Types of classes

Antenatal classes can cover pregnancy health, labour and birth, and becoming a parent.

You will have the opportunity to ask questions and request topics of your choosing.

Your hospital or health centre may also have a breastfeeding preparation class.

Vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) antenatal classes are offered by many hospitals. These are for women who had have a previous caesarean birth.

Some areas may have antenatal education especially for lone parents and teenagers and young adults.

Private classes

There are private antenatal classes available. They will charge a fee. Some of these are available online. It is important to research the credentials of the course providers.

Your midwife or GP may be able to offer you guidance if you are unclear about which classes to attend.

How often are classes and how long do they last

Classes may be offered weekly, during the day, in the evening or over a full day, depending on the maternity hospital or health centre. They may last for 2 or 3 hours or longer for a full day.

Taking time off work for antenatal classes

Pregnant women are entitled to take paid time off work to attend antenatal classes.

Attending a class with your partner

Partners are usually welcome at classes. Check before attending.

Tips during pregnancy - HSE

Staying healthy during your pregnancy - HSE

Page last reviewed: 1 May 2020
Next review due: 1 May 2023