Falling pregnant and having a baby is a dream come true for many, but it’s also a process that comes with lots of new experiences. The changes to your body and lifestyle are significant, and many new parents turn to antenatal classes to find support.
Antenatal classes are typically taught by midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Classes focus on helping you navigate the process, make informed decisions about your pregnancy, manage labour and care for your newborn. Every class is conducted a little differently, but the core bits of information are the same, and antenatal classes are an excellent tool for all expectant parents. In this article we’ll take a closer look at what is taught in antenatal classes so you know what you can look forward to.
Changes to Your Body During Pregnancy
The first big topic covered in antenatal classes is pregnancy itself. It’s easy to get tangled in all the misinformation surrounding pregnancy, so antenatal classes tend to focus on the facts. The goal here is to prepare both partners for what they can expect at each stage of pregnancy. Knowing what’s coming next is the best way to make informed decisions, look after yourself and care for your developing baby.
Your antenatal classes will offer in-depth information about every stage of pregnancy. You can expect the class to cover topics such as:
- The different stages of pregnancy
- Changes to your body
- Nutritional and healthcare requirements
- The side effects of pregnancy
- Potential complications
- Looking after your emotional health
- Staying healthy and pregnancy exercises
It’s also normal for antenatal classes to provide a guide to pregnancy that’s designed for partners. Working together is a big part of a positive pregnancy experience, so encouraging your partner to get involved is always a good idea.
Managing Labour and Birth
Labour and birth can be a daunting experience. Antenatal classes aim to clear up the unknowns and prepare you for what comes next. There are lots of decisions to make about your labour and how you’d like to give birth. It’s a good idea to make a plan early so that everything is in place when the moment comes. Your antenatal classes will cover the entire labour and birthing process so that you have time to decide what you’d like to do.
Your instructor will take you through the entire process of labour and birth, including:
- Preparing for labour
- The signs of labour
- When to contact your birthing clinic
- The various stages of labour
- Possible birthing positions
- Pain management options
- Caesarean and natural birth information
Breastfeeding Advice and Caring for Your Newborn
The work of being a parent begins as soon as your newborn is in your arms. To help you prepare, antenatal classes provide instruction on caring for your newborn. Feeding is a big part of caring for your baby and so it’s also a major part of antenatal classes. In addition to feeding, you can expect to receive help with:
- Caring for your newborn
- Achieving breastfeeding success
- Formula feeding options
- Mixed feeding options
- Feeding guide for partners
- Introducing solid foods
There’s a lot to learn when you have a new baby in your arms, so antenatal classes aim to make the process smoother. Feeding is a major part of caring for your newborn and it’s something that many parents struggle with. By preparing you with plenty of advice on how to breastfeed your baby, you’ll know what to expect and how to navigate any problems you encounter.
Emotional and Postpartum Support
Antenatal classes aren’t just about caring for your baby. While their health is important, a baby can only thrive while their parents are doing well. The final component of antenatal classes is support for your mind and body throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and early childhood.
Each instructor will cover slightly different material, but you can expect to receive information about a range of topics, including:
- Recovering from birth
- Pelvic floor recovery
- Adjusting to parenthood
- Postpartum exercises
- Managing your emotional health
The final part of antenatal classes also offers you the chance to hear from parents who’ve already gone through the process. You’re not alone during your pregnancy, and it’s important to understand that others have faced the same things you are. Hearing how real people managed their situations can offer you valuable insight and help you get more from your antenatal classes.