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.
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.
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.
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.
Examples of topics are:
- how to stay healthy during pregnancy
- emotions that you may experience during your pregnancy
- what happens during labour and birth
- how to deal with labour
- positions and breathing for labour and birth
- relaxation techniques
- pain relief
- different types of births (vaginal and caesarean)
- preparation for becoming a parent
- caring for your baby
- developing a relationship with your baby
- looking after your relationship with your partner
- safe skin-to-skin contact
- your health after the birth of your baby
- hopes and concerns
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.
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.