Antenatal classes: Do you need them?

Have you booked in for birth classes? Jane Svensson, a health education coordinator recommends all parents-to-be attend an antenatal class, as she says it’s not the case that childbirth will simply come naturally on the day – not to mention the weeks and months to come. “Couples gain far more than simply labour skills and techniques, as most programs now cover life with a baby, too,” she advises.

What’s in a class?

Depending on the type and length of birth class you book in for, you should cover different stages of labour and how to tell when you’re entering transition, breathing through contractions, facing any fears you might have, the benefits or side-effects of any drugs used during labour, along with clearing up any misconceptions picked up from the internet. And don’t assume that private classes are any more ‘natural’ than hospital ones – many hospitals now have natural birth centres, so classes should cover the gamut of options and viewpoints.

Pick the right class for you

To really get an idea if a class is the right one for you, start asking some questions before booking. “Make sure you contact both private and hospital classes you’re interested in and really drill down and ask what’s in them. There’s no regulatory body in New Zealand, so programs do vary,” advises Jane, adding that most classes will be able to post or email you a brochure with a class breakdown.

Classes have changed

If your mum or older relative scoff at the idea of classes, quipping that it’ll ‘come naturally on the day’, tell them that times have changed since they had a baby. “There were classes in the 1970s, larger lecture-style classes, often run by physios,” confirms Jane. “Things have changed since then, even in the last few years. Now we’re starting to do pre-conception classes and ‘bringing up baby’ classes.”

Find a place by 20 weeks

Childbirth classes do tend to fill up early, so try and book in by the time you reach 20 weeks pregnancy. If the class of your choice is already full, ask your hospital to refer you to a private antenatal class in your area.

The price is right

Prices and structures of antenatal classes vary at different hospitals and in different areas. Most ante-natal classes in New Zealand are free, particularly ones run by hospitals and family centres, but private classes at birth centres are also available at a cost.

Dads learn too

Just as importantly, childbirth classes are as much for dads to learn from as for mums. “Men often feel like deer in headlights, so I put as much humour into my classes as possible, let them know their partners need them to be involved and make them feel that they’re being helpful,” explains Katie Brown, mum of three and author of Mother Me: A Mum’s Guide to Balance, Wellbeing and Harmony (Macmillan), who runs yoga-based birth classes. “It can be a lovely bonding thing for partners to do together.”

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