NCT, NHS or a luxurious weekend away? We help you choose the best antenatal class for you and your partner
There are lots of antenatal classes that help prepare you and your partner for labour, giving birth and being a new parent. To find out which one is best for you, read on…
The philosophy: Normally run by a midwife, NHS classes at a hospital can be quite formal, while classes at a clinic are usually less so. They normally have a straightforward, common sense approach to their subject.
Clinic classes are held at a local clinic, health centre or GP’s surgery and usually run by a community midwife; hospital classes will be held at the hospital where you have chosen to have your baby.
In NHS classes you’ll be taught how to recognise when you’re in labour, abnormal labour, tips about coming in to hospital for a normal birth, caesarean births, assisted births, breathing techniques and relaxation during labour. You’ll also cover babycare basics, from changing nappies and sleeping to bathing your baby. A hospital tour may also be included.
Places go quickly, so get your name down as soon as you can. You’ll be told all about NHS antenatal classes when you attend the hospital for your ‘booking in’ appointment.
Use classes as a great way to get email addresses from other mums-to-be in the group so you can arrange to meet up, and create a support network.
Anne Richley, midwife
For more details about NHS classes contact your midwife, GP or local hospital.
The philosophy: Classes tend to have an informal atmosphere, with the emphasis being on learning through discussion. Labour and birth options are explored and women are guided towards making their own decisions.
These classes are run by NCT-trained teachers (who aren’t necessarily medically qualified) and may be held at the teacher’s home or in a hall.
You can expect to cover topics such as preparation for labour and birth, where you would like to give birth (home, birth centre or hospital), self-help during labour (such as different positions you can adopt and being massaged by your partner), pain-relief options and any possible interventions you’d like to consider during labour. You'll be expected to attend one two-hour session a week, for eight weeks. Classes are generally small – probably a maximum of eight couples.
You’ll need to book NCT classes as soon as you can, especially in London and the South East, where the demand is high. On average, women start attending classes around week 30. As for the cost, some people can attend classes for free as the NCT has charity status, but if you’re paying, expect it to cost £55–£130 for an eight-week course.NCT classes are for you if: You’d like more individual attention (as classes tend to be small), and you want to become part of your local NCT network.But not if: Travelling is an issue – that may be required to find a class.
Call 0870 444 8707 or take a look at www.nct.org.uk.
"Antenatal classes have been useful, if only in reminding me that others are going through it, too. On our first visit, we did an exercise that was meant to reassure us. For some reason the teacher decided I should play the part of the woman, so she made me lie on the floor with my legs splayed and grunt in pain while she talked everyone else through what became a forceps delivery – not quite what I was expecting, but she made her point."Tim, 32, dad to Ethan, 8 months
The philosophy: These classes aim to guide parents towards making their owndecisions during pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Independent classes are becoming an increasingly popular choice, due to cutbacks in NHS antenatal class provision. They are often taught by midwives or NCT-trained antenatal teachers, and most classes invite couples to make informed choices through group and discussion work, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Courses are held at locations all over the country. There are a variety of different packages on offer, from intensive weekend residential/nonresidential courses to tailor-made sessions in your own home. Birth partners are generally encouraged to attend and classes are usually small.
The content will vary depending on what sort of class you attend and where it’s held, but the following topics are generally included: recognising the start of labour, what happens to your body, assisted births, pain relief, breathing techniques and relaxation during labour, active birth and the role of the birth partner. Parenting issues are also covered, such as breastfeeding, bathing and nappies.
You’ll probably be able to find a time and location to suit you but it doesn’t come cheap. Prices vary, starting from around £229 for a one-day, non-residential course and costing as much as £1,500 for a weekend package in a luxury hotel.Independently run antenatal classes are for you if: You like the chance to meet other new parents with a view to making lasting friendships – intensive weekend courses can be real bonding experiences.But not if: You don’t feel comfortable taking in a lot of information very quickly. A weekend crash-course may be a bit too intensive; you may prefer the information spread out over your pregnancy. And then there’s the cost to think about.
Birthsteps: call 01451 821650 or visit www.birthsteps.com Good Birth Getaway: call 0845 337 0377 or visit www.goodbirthgetaway.co.uk.
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