Types of Classes

What to Expect

Topics covered in your antenatal classes may include:

  • What happens during labour and birth
  • The pregnant body and changes
  • Coping with labour and information about pain relief
  • Exercises to keep you fit during pregnancy and help during labour
  • Preparing for life with a new baby
  • Multiple birth (if appropriate)
  • Caring for a newborn, including feeding
  • Your own health in pregnancy and after the birth
  • Relaxation
  • Emotions surrounding pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period
  • Refresher classes for those who’ve already had a baby


Most parents attend at least some antenatal classes. You’re entitled to time off work to do so. Some employers will ask to see a note from your midwife or doctor recommending you go and confirming your attendance.

Which Antenatal Class?

There are different types of classes – ask your midwife what’s available in your area. Some are for everyone; others are aimed at particular groups, such as teen mums or women from specific ethnic groups. Some expect both partners to attend others are for mums only; most welcome same-sex partners, or women with their own mothers or a friend rather than the baby’s father.

Do be aware that different teachers will have undertaken training with a range of different philosophies.  Some courses may be more medicalised, whilst others may focus on particular types of relaxation or approach to birth. It is important that you investigate and choose a course appropriate to your own personal beliefs and requirements.

NHS classes are :

  • Usually held in the hospital or health centre
  • Run by a health professional, often a midwife or health visitor, perhaps with input from a doctor
  • Held in quite big groups, so there’s less chance to make friends with others
  • Free


Private classes are :

  • Often held at someone’s home or in a community setting
  • Run by teachers trained by the organisation offering the class – they may or may not be health professionals
  • Usually held in quite small groups, as the focus is on friendship and support
  • Some organisations offer early pregnancy classes


There’s usually a charge for private classes, although this may be waived in some cases.

Independent midwives run classes as well as private groups.  The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is a registered charity and provides private antenatal classes amongst many other services.

Antenatal classes/courses vary in length, it is good to investigate the length of the antenatal course being offered as well as the type of class on offer. Typical antenatal classes are usually held during the last few months of pregnancy and tend to be according to your due date, so all the women in one class are due at more or less the same time.

In some areas, you might find ‘labour and birth’ weekends or days, where you attend one or two extended sessions. Both private and NHS classes can take these formats.

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