Our Comprehensive Guide to Antenatal Classes

Key Points

  1. Antenatal classes, also known as prenatal or childbirth education classes, are designed to prepare expectant parents for labour, birth and the early weeks with a newborn.
  2. Antenatal classes cover a wide range of topics, including pregnancy health, labour and birth options, newborn care, breastfeeding and postpartum recovery.
  3. The cost and availability of antenatal classes vary, with options including hospital-based classes, hypno-birthing, Calmbirth, active birth, and online classes. Booking early, ideally during the third trimester, is recommended.

 

Having a baby is an incredibly rewarding experience, but pregnancy is also a time that comes with plenty of changes. To help manage the changes to your body, health and lifestyle, many new parents turn to antenatal classes.

Antenatal classes are dedicated to expecting parents. Led by doctors, nurses, midwives or other healthcare professionals, antenatal classes help you navigate the pregnancy experience.

Many parents choose to attend antenatal classes at their local hospital or clinic. Alternatively, online antenatal classes allow you to review the material whenever you like.

The content of each course varies, but most instructors will cover a number of common topics. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to antenatal classes and what you can expect to learn.


What are antenatal classes?

Antenatal classes – also known as prenatal classes or childbirth education – are designed to prepare you for your upcoming labour, birth and the first few weeks with your newborn baby. They include advice, medical information, practical exercises and support for the changes that are happening to your body and what you can expect.

Antenatal classes go hand-in-hand with other resources, like a baby sleep guide.


Do I need to go to antenatal classes?

Antenatal classes teach hands-on skills, help you understand pregnancy, labour and birth, and can help you prepare for what comes next. If you want to minimise your stress during pregnancy, birth and early childhood, antenatal classes can provide the support you and your partner need.


What is taught in antenatal classes?

  1. Pregnancy health, fitness and changes to your body

Finding accurate, up to date information on pregnancy can be challenging, so this is the first topic covered in antenatal classes.

To make sure your pregnancy experience is positive, your instructor will focus on facts and prepare you for what happens at each stage of the journey. They’ll provide information that helps you make informed decisions and look after yourself and your developing baby.

You can expect most antenatal classes to cover the following topics:

  1. The stages of pregnancy
  2. How your body will change
  3. Dietary and nutrition requirements
  4. Potential pregnancy complications
  5. Exercises you can do during pregnancy

    Antenatal classes are open to pregnant mothers and their partners. Partners are encouraged to take part so that they’re prepared for everything that lies ahead. Most antenatal classes include topics specifically for partners, so encouraging them to get involved is a great idea.

     

    1. Options for labour and birth

    Antenatal classes cover the labour and childbirth process in depth. This information is intended to help you plan for what comes next.

    Labour comes with several major decisions about childbirth methods, pain management and your newborn’s care. Antenatal classes will prepare you for these decisions and help you choose how you’d like to manage your own experience.

    Classes cover a range of labour and delivery topics, such as:

    1. How to prepare for labour
    2. The signs of labour
    3. When to contact your hospital
    4. The stages of labour
    5. Birthing positions
    6. Pain management options
    7. Information about caesarean births

       

      1. Newborn care, breastfeeding and sleep

      Parenthood begins as soon as your baby is in your arms. That might sound daunting, but antenatal classes cover everything you need to know about looking after your newborn.

      Feeding is a major part of caring for your baby, so it’s also a central topic for antenatal classes. Beyond that, your instructor will provide information about:

      1. How to care for your newborn
      2. Breastfeeding guides
      3. Formula feeding options
      4. Mixed feeding
      5. Partner’s guide to feeding
      6. Introducing your baby to solid foods
      7. Safe sleep and settling
      8. Understanding your baby’s cries

       

      1. Postpartum recovery and emotional health

        Antenatal classes cover the pregnancy, labour and birth experience as a whole. While much of the content is focused on caring for your baby, the final component includes postpartum support on caring for your baby.

        Recovering from pregnancy isn’t always straightforward, and it’s important to look after your mind and body as you adjust to your new lifestyle.

        The postpartum material covered by our online antenatal classes includes information about:

        1. The recovery process and what to expect
        2. Pelvic floor recovery exercises
        3. Postpartum exercises
        4. Adjusting to parenthood
        5. Monitoring your emotional health and needs
          antenatal-course-online

          How much do Antenatal Classes cost?

          There are a number of options when it comes to antenatal classes, with the cost and availability depending on where you live. Some antenatal class costs may also be eligible for a rebate with your private health care provider:

          Hospital Antenatal Classes

          The maternity hospital where you plan to have your baby may offer antenatal classes. You can expect to pay about $200-$300 for hospital-based antenatal classes.

          Hypno-birthing Antenatal Classes

          The increasingly popular hypno-birthing technique uses deep relaxation, self-hypnosis and specific breathing exercises to help manage pain during labour. Classes cost around $500.

          Calmbirth Antenatal Classes

          The Calmbirth approach is focused on reducing anxiety, promoting “calm” and the release of endorphins – then enhancing the effects of this pain relief hormone to your benefit. Similar to hypno-birthing, it uses relaxation, breathing and visualisation exercises. Classes cost about $500.

          Active Birth Antenatal Classes

          The foundation of Active Birth is putting you in “control” of your labour (and pain management) embracing the highs and lows and essentially “going with the flow”. If you’re hoping for a natural, unmedicated birth, this one’s for you. Class costs range from about $250-$400.

          Online Antenatal Classes

          An online antenatal class is something every expectant parent should consider. Online education provides material you can review in your own time and at your own pace, as many times as you need. Online antenatal classes are also perfect for 2nd or 3rd time mums who are looking for a refresher. Classes start from about $55, or we offer antenatal bundles from $149.


          What other preparation should I do during my pregnancy?

          Breastfeeding Classes

          While some antenatal classes cover breastfeeding basics, it’s worth thinking about taking a specific breastfeeding class.

          Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally. Understanding the intricacies of breastfeeding will give you the confidence to achieve your breastfeeding goals.

          Pregnancy Diet

          Nutrition during pregnancy is known to have a significant effect on your baby’s growth and development.

          Good nutrition not only promotes overall health, it gives you adequate stores of essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals to support your growing baby. It is also vital for normal organ development and function, growth and maintenance, energy and immunity.

          Prenatal Exercise Classes

          The benefits of moderate exercise during pregnancy are endless. It can help manage back pain and strain as your belly grows, increase energy and promote quality sleep. More importantly, it prepares your body for the demands of labour and birth. and can decrease labour duration and intensity!

          As your fitness builds, you may like to participate in the instructor-led pregnancy exercise video found in our labour and birthing course. It includes a range of safe exercises adapted to each trimester of your pregnancy and is compatible with your smart device too.

          Emotional Preparation

          The transition to parenthood isn’t always easy, and it’s often not what we expect! Understanding the emotional changes that may take place will help you manage and optimise your psychological health, potentially avoiding conditions such as postnatal depression.

          Nourish Baby’s courses include emotional health content written by the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE). COPE aims to support new parents through the challenges of pregnancy and early childhood.

           

           

          What other types of antenatal classes are available?

          Antenatal classes provide general information about pregnancy, labour, birth and newborn care. In addition to these classes, you can find other courses that cover topics like:

          Lamaze classes

          The Lamaze technique teaches breathing and relaxation techniques that help with pain management and comfort during labour and birth. The technique is focused on preparing mothers for natural childbirth, and building confidence in your ability to give birth.

          Lamaze classes provide instruction on the labour and birth process, as well as breathing, visualisation, movement during labour, massage and support techniques.

          Calmbirth®

          The Calmbirth® program is designed to psychologically and emotionally prepare you for childbirth. It’s intended to empower you to work with your body to create a positive birth experience.

          During the Calmbirth® program, you will retrain your stress response and learn to let go of fear through guided relaxation. This heals subconscious fears and anxiety about childbirth, and helps you move past negative emotions.

          Hypnobirthing

          Hypnobirthing Australia™ is a program that centres on preparing you for birth through knowledge and confidence. These classes are perfect for both natural and caesarean birth, so they are ideal for all mothers.

          The Hypnobirthing Australia™ program teaches breathing exercises, self-hypnosis, movement and massage, vocalisation, visualisation and deep relaxation techniques.

          Active Birth

          Active Birth combines yoga with antenatal classes to prepare you physically and emotionally for labour. You will practise yoga postures that relate to labour and birth, which have been shown to reduce the risks associated with labour.

          The Active Birth program includes gentle, pregnancy-safe yoga classes, as well as a separate birthing workshop. These cover relaxation, breathing, visualisation and vocalisation, and the best birthing positions.

          Antenatal exercise classes

          Staying active during pregnancy comes with dozens of health benefits for you and your baby. If you need help with pregnancy-approved exercises, classes like antenatal yoga, aqua antenatal classes, and antenatal pilates are an excellent option.

          The online antenatal classes from Nourish Baby include instructor-led prenatal and postnatal fitness programs. Our fitness classes can help you build or maintain your fitness, which will support you throughout labour, birth and early childhood.


          When should I book my antenatal classes?

          There are no bookings required if you choose the online antenatal class route. If you are looking to attend an in-person class, it’s best to book early so you don’t miss out. We recommend booking towards the end of your second trimester (around 18-20 weeks).

          In terms of actually attending the classes – you’ll want to do them in your third trimester (around 30 weeks) so it’s top of mind as your baby gets closer.

          Complementing your hospital class with an online antenatal class is also a great option. Using both resources means you can continue to revisit your online course material throughout pregnancy and after your baby is born.

          Where are you in your journey?

          All journeys are unique and exciting, so we have matched our courses to your current stage of pregnancy or parenting. Simply select where you're up to below.