Antenatal classes, also called birth and parenting classes, help you and your partner to get ready for labour, birth, breastfeeding and caring for a newborn baby. Most people say going to classes helps them feel more confident as the birth approaches.
Antenatal classes teach you about:
- how to prepare for labour
- the signs of labour and when to call the hospital
- the different stages of labour
- different birthing positions
- relaxation and breathing skills to use during labour
- early parenting
- newborn baby behaviour
You will also meet a group of parents who, like you, are expecting a baby. Many parents say talking to other people in a similar situation and sharing experiences is one of the major benefits of antenatal classes.
You can ask questions, get specific information about the place where the baby will be born, and often visit the birthing centre so you know what to expect.
Most birth and parenting courses run for about 12 hours over several weeks and are designed to suit the schedules of busy parents.
Classes often fill up quickly, so it’s a good idea to book at around 20 weeks. You should aim to finish the course by the time you are about 36 weeks pregnant, or earlier if you are expecting more than one baby.
How can I find an antenatal class?
Most maternity services run antenatal classes. There is also a wide range of private classes available. Ask your midwife or doctor what they recommend.
Antenatal classes are often run by a midwife, physiotherapist or lactation consultant, but you can also find private classes run by a doula (a person who offered non-medical support before, during and after birth), yoga practitioner or someone trained in a specific birthing technique.
Types of antenatal class
There are many different sorts of antenatal classes. You might find it helpful to go to more than one type. It is important to check that the person running the class has been properly trained.
Some types of antenatal class include:
- early pregnancy
- 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
- preparation for breastfeeding
There are also classes especially for:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents
- parents who come from different cultures or who don’t speak English well
- parents who are expecting more than one baby
- parents who know they will be having a caesarean
- parents considering options after the first baby was born by caesarean
Some antenatal classes are offered online. These can be a good option for parents who cannot go to face-to-face classes. But you won’t have the benefit of meeting other parents.
If you are considering online classes, remember that overseas websites might not contain information that is correct in Australia.
You can read more about online classes at Nourish baby online.
How much do classes cost?
The cost of antenatal classes varies widely and depends on where you live and who is running the course. Some hospitals provide free classes while others charge as much as $500. Private classes can cost several hundred dollars.
You might be eligible for a medical insurance rebate. Check with your private health care provider.
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Last reviewed: October 2021