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Labour and birth classes

6-minute read

During your pregnancy, you’ll probably find it helpful to attend labour and birth classes — also called antenatal classes — to learn what’s involved. As with any major life event, having as much information as possible aids you in building knowledge and understanding.

There are many choices available to expectant parents when it comes to labour and birth classes. It’s worth putting a little time and research into finding the most suitable, individual option.

Which topics do labour and birth classes cover?

Different types of classes have their own philosophies and approach. However, the general information covered includes:

  • pregnancy health and wellbeing
  • understanding how the labour and birth process works
  • building an emotional attachment between parents and their baby during pregnancy
  • physical and emotional preparation for labour and birth
  • exercises during pregnancy to prepare for labour and birth
  • relaxation and visualisation techniques
  • learning how to use positive affirmations
  • breathing exercises
  • working ‘with’ contractions
  • partner support options
  • learning how to work with labour pain and how to push effectively
  • birth interventions including induction, forceps and vacuum extraction and caesarean section
  • birth position choices
  • reducing labour and birth-related anxiety
  • pain relief options

What is Calmbirth?

Calmbirth programs mainly focus on psychological and emotional preparation for childbirth. Calmbirth’s most important principles are centred on retraining the mother’s response to stress and supporting them in becoming less reactive and more proactive during labour and birth.

Calmbirth training focuses on techniques to release fear, and these are practised through a series of guided relaxation strategies. Visualisation, meditation, massage, acupressure and positioning for an active birth are all part of the training.

What is hypnobirth?

Hypnobirthing is another way to learn about childbirth. Supporters of hypnobirthing believe that it helps with managing birth-relatedfear or anxiety, leading to body relaxation during pregnancy, labour and birth.

A range of relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques, including breathing, massage, and self-hypnosis, help the woman to stay calm during labour and birth. Breathing techniques follow a pattern of slow, deep breaths in and then breathing out slowly and calmly.

Hypnobirthing followers believe it is important for the woman to prepare her body and mind to achieve a calm, gentle and positive birth.

What are Lamaze classes?

Lamaze technique is a form of preparation for childbirth named after the French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze, who developed an alternative to conventionally-managed labour and birth.

The goal of a Lamaze birth is to build a mother’s confidence in her ability to birth her baby in the most relaxing way possible. Through movement in labour, massage and an approach that doesn’t involve intervention, Lamaze supporters believe women naturally know how to labour. Giving birth in an upright position is also seen as the more natural approach.

What are active birth classes?

Active birth classes are said to help in supporting women to be less passive during their labour and birth and to actively take part.

Supporters of active birth feel that moving around during labour, staying upright during birth and using the woman’s preferred position to birth leads to a better experience for both mother and baby.

Who teaches labour and birth classes?

Labour and birth preparation classes are run by a range of people who generally have a passion and interest in childbirth. Many are professionals with healthcare practitioner qualifications. Some don’t have formal qualifications although they may have a certificate to teach their particular course.

Speak to your doctor or midwife about your choices for labour and birthing classes. You can also speak to friends or get advice from local online community groups for recommendations and previous experiences.

Which birthing class is right for me and my partner?

Communication is at the heart of making the right decision. Speak openly with your partner about the type of labour and birth you’d like to have and how they can support you.

Most classes are based on the belief that expectant parents — rather than the maternity care provider — are central to decision making about how labour and birth are managed.

Read more


Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes help you and your partner prepare for the birth of your baby and for caring for your newborn.

Making a birth plan

Making a birth plan

A birth plan is a written list of what you would like to happen when you are in labour and giving birth.

How much do birthing classes cost?

Course prices vary from $300 to $450 per couple. Educational videos and tip sheets are often included and on average, classes cover the content in between 6 and 8 weeks.

Antenatal classes are often provided free of charge by public birth hospitals. Labour and birth education is also included in care provided by a private midwife.

Are classes covered by Medicare or private health insurance?

Medicare does not cover childbirth preparation classes. Private birth hospitals often charge what your health fund will rebate, so it's worth checking with your health fund.

How do I find a local birthing class?

If you have access to the internet, search online for classes that might be offered in your area. Most maternity hospitals offer preparation for birth classes as well as labour ward tours. 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.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many courses are currently being conducted online. If a class is held for a group, it will probably be subject to social distancing rules.

Where can I get more information about birthing classes?

Speak with your maternity care provider, or the hospital or birthing centre where you plan to have your baby about labour and birth classes available to you. 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: March 2021


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Need more information?

Antenatal classes

Antenatal classes help you and your partner prepare for the birth of your baby and for caring for your newborn.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Birth classes for men | Raising Children Network

In birth or antenatal classes for men, you learn about supporting your partner in birth and becoming a dad. You can get support from other dads-to-be.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Pregnancy at week 17

By week 17, you may want to start thinking about antenatal classes to help you and your partner prepare for the birth and beyond.

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Your first antenatal visit

Find out what will happen and what you can learn during your first antenatal care visit with your GP or midwife.

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Check-ups, tests and scans available during your pregnancy

Antenatal care includes several check-ups, tests and scans, some of which are offered to women as a normal part of antenatal care in Australia. Learn more here.

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Routine antenatal tests

During your pregnancy, you'll be offered a range of tests, including blood tests and ultrasound scans.

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Maternity care in Australia

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, find out what care, support and services may be available to you in Australia.

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Checkups, scans and tests during pregnancy

Handy infographic that shows what you can expect at each antenatal appointment during your pregnancy.

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Week by week pregnancy- antenatal care at 7 weeks pregnant

Your doctor can look at your foetus’s features to determine how old they are – find out how. You need to talk to your doctor if you experience very severe morning sickness as you may not be getting all the nutrients you and your baby need or early pregnancy spotting (spot bleeding) as you may be at risk of miscarriage.

Read more on Parenthub website

What does your GP do in pregnancy care?

Your doctor, or GP, is likely to be the first health professional you see when you become pregnant, and may help with your antenatal care.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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