What are antenatal classes?
Antenatal classes are also called labour and birthing classes. They help you get ready for labour, birth, breastfeeding, and caring for a newborn baby.
If you choose to have a birth support partner, you can bring them along to the classes.
Should I do antenatal classes?
During your pregnancy, you may find it helpful to attend antenatal classes to learn what's involved during the birth. This helps build your knowledge and understanding of labour, birth, breastfeeding, and caring for a newborn. It can help you feel more confident as the birth approaches.
What are the benefits of antenatal classes?
Most antenatal courses are designed to suit the schedules of busy parents. They may run over several weeks for about 8 hours in total. It's a good idea to book a class for when you will be around 28 weeks into your pregnancy. Classes often fill up quickly.
Antenatal classes may cover topic such as:
- pregnancy health and wellbeing
- the signs of labour and when to call the hospital
- the different stages of labour
- the role of the support person
- interventions that may be considered during labour
- pain relief during labour
- safe sleeping and settling
- newborn care
During these classes you will meet other people who are expecting babies. You'll be able to talk to other people in a similar situation and share your experiences.
Who teaches antenatal classes?
Antenatal classes are often run by maternity health providers, including hospitals, charities, and some private practices. Some private classes may be run by a doula (a person who offers non-medical support before, during and after birth).
How can I find an antenatal class?
If you have access to the internet, search online for classes that are offered in your area. Some local councils also offer courses.
If you still can't find a course that's right for you, one of our maternal child health nurses may be able to help. Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436.
What types of antenatal class are available?
In addition to traditional antenatal classes, there are many different sorts of antenatal classes available.
Some examples of these antenatal class are:
- Lamaze classes — involving breathing techniques, relaxation, and support
- Active Birth — learning birthing techniques and positions
- Calmbirth — childbirth education program based on understanding of the birth process
- Hypnobirthing — a form of deep meditation and relaxation
- aqua antenatal classes
- antenatal yoga or Pilates
What is Calmbirth?
The Calmbirth program focuses on the mind-body connection and how your emotions influence the birth.
Calmbirth uses this mind-body connection to reduce any fear, stress or anxiety about giving birth. Pregnant women are empowered to birth their baby calmly, fearlessly and confidently.
It seeks to retrain the mother's response to stress and supporting them to be proactive during labour and birth.
The Calmbirth program includes techniques to release fear through guided relaxation strategies. This helps you to overcome any negative feelings you may have about childbirth.
What are Lamaze classes?
Lamaze childbirth education classes help to build your confidence in your ability to birth your baby in the most relaxing way possible.
The foundation of these classes are the 6 healthy birth practices:
- Let labour begin on its own.
- Move around and change positions throughout labour.
- Bring a support person — a loved one, friend or doula.
- Avoid interventions that aren't needed.
- Avoid giving birth on your back.
- Keep mother and baby.
What are active birth classes?
Active birth classes focus on the use of movement and different positions to help you manage your labour.
Supporters of active birth feel that both you and your baby can have a better birth experience through:
- moving around during labour
- staying upright during birth
- using your preferred position to birth
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing is another way to prepare for childbirth. Supporters of hypnobirthing believe that it helps with managing birth-related fear or anxiety. This leads to body relaxation during your pregnancy, labour, and birth.
Hypnobirthing followers believe it's important to prepare your body and mind to achieve a calm, gentle, and positive birth.
There are many different hypnobirthing classes available.
Which birthing class is right for me?
If you decide to do antenatal classes, you may want to look at the different types of classes available.
Before choosing a class, you may want to:
- think about the type of labour and birth you'd like to have
- make a birth plan — a list of what you would like to happen during your baby's birth
- look at the published research that supports these antenatal classes
There are also classes especially for:
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander parents
- parents who come from who don't speak English as their first language
- parents who are expecting more than one baby
Can I do classes online?
Online classes can be a good option for parents who can't go to face-to-face classes. But you won't have the benefit of meeting other parents.
How much do classes cost?
The cost of antenatal classes varies and depends on where you live in Australia and who is running the classes. Medicare does not cover childbirth preparation classes. Some hospitals provide free classes while others have costs associated with them.
If you have private medical insurance, you might be eligible for a rebate. Check with your private health care insurer.
Resources and support
To find out about labour and birth classes speak with:
The course coordinator can provide details of an individual course.
Speak to a maternal child health nurse
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: May 2023