Antenatal classes (parent education classes or courses) prepare you for labour, birth, and caring for your new baby.
You can learn about:
- getting ready for pregnancy
- your support methods and choices during labour and birth
- preparing for your new baby
Booking antenatal classes
Book classes as early as possible after your booking visit (between 8 to 12 weeks).
Your maternity unit or hospital can let you know how to book classes with them.
Ask them about their availability.
When to start antenatal classes
Most antenatal classes start when you are between 26 and 32 weeks pregnant.
But you can book early pregnancy antenatal classes after your booking visit. Start these classes before you are 20 weeks pregnant.
You can also start antenatal classes early if you are expecting twins or multiple babies. This is because your babies are more likely to arrive early.
What happens in antenatal classes
Classes are usually free.
They are normally held once a week, either during the day or in the evening, for around 2 hours.
They can be done online or in-person.
At in-person classes you can:
- meet your care team
- get a tour of your maternity unit or hospital before you give birth
- interact with other parents
- practice active birth positions and techniques
Your partner can join you at all classes.
Classes may be led by midwives, physiotherapists, dietitians, social workers and other members of your care team.
You can request topics you'd like to learn about.
- bonding with your unborn baby
- preparing for becoming a parent
- protecting your mental health during pregnancy
- different types of births - such as vaginal birth or caesarean birth
- preparing for labour and birth
- safe skin-to-skin contact
- developing a relationship with your baby
- looking after your relationship with your partner
- your health and mental health after the birth of your baby
Taking time off work for antenatal classes
Before your baby is born, you can take paid time off work to attend antenatal classes.
Partners can also take paid time off to attend the last 2 antenatal classes. You are only entitled to do this for 1 pregnancy.
Types of antenatal classes
There are different types of antenatal classes.
They include classes for:
- early pregnancy (between 6 and 20 weeks of pregnancy)
- parents who have already had one or more babies
- first-time parents
- planned caesarean birth
- vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) or next birth after caesarean (NBAC)
- breastfeeding preparation
- bereaved parents
- birth partners
- teenagers and young adults (under 21 years)
- the Travelling community
- people with disabilities
- deaf and blind people
- people who do not speak English as a first language
- LGBTQ families
Talk to your midwife, GP or public health nurse for guidance if you are unsure about which classes to attend.
Private antenatal classes are available, but you will need to pay for them.
Make sure the person delivering your classes is a qualified parent educator before you book.
Your midwife, GP or public health nurse can give you more information about preparing for birth.
They might suggest:
- your maternity hospital’s website or leaflets
- My Child
- the My Pregnancy book - you will get this at your booking visit
Online classes and resources
Some maternity units and hospitals have free online antenatal classes, videos and courses.
- National Maternity Hospital (Holles Street) eLearning Hub - nmh.ie
- Your Pregnancy Journey - rotunda.ie
- Parent Education - coombe.ie
Ask your maternity unit or hospital if they have online resources.