For our American readers: the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) are the main providers of Prenatal Classes here in the UK Also for the Americans - from the Latin: ante = before, natal = birth)
Do we really need to do antenatal (prenatal) classes?
Is there anything there that we can learn that we haven’t already seen on the net or that we haven’t already read in our pregnancy books?
Isn’t the main purpose just to meet people due around the same time? – everyone knows that you are likely to make good friends at antenatal class…
Yes, absolutely, you will probably meet people who may become, if not best of friends, in the very least a jolly good social circle to hang out with in those early years.
I, luckily, did meet one of my very best friends at antenatal class, she saved my sanity in those first years of endless nappies, and this year, together, we watched our babies graduate from university!
Don't leave it too late to register!
Many people make the classic mistake of waiting too late, only to find that their local NCT class is fully booked. But fear not, London is rife with classes.There is a wide range of choice these days, from the hospital class, to the NCT, to private classes run by doulas or midwives, and often you will find private classes that are run by NCT trained practitioners now working independently.
Don’t assume that the private classes are more expensive, the pricing is fairly consistent across the board.
Look for classes that are in the radius around where you plan to deliver, so even if it is not actually right in your neighbourhood, it will be in the area near to where you plan to have your baby.
The Internet is a great resource, so if you have missed your local NCT, do cast around for private classes local to your home or hospital. The best thing is to google ‘your area + antenatal class’ and you will find a full range of classes on offer. Ask your midwives for a recommendation, talk to friends and colleagues who have recently had babies about teachers they would recommend. Be assured that word of mouth will take you in the right direction, even if it is not necessarily right on your doorstep.
So if you have left it late, don’t despair, for there are plenty of classes out there, and it is important to think about doing a class regardless of your locality. There is so much about the class experience that will help you to feel more prepared for the experience of labour.
Are classes really necessary?
Many people may feel that they will be able to prepare for labour just by reading books, or possibly doing one of the on-line courses that are now available. As important as it is to hope to make friends in your antenatal group, one of the key factors that make these classes so valuable is actually what happens in the group dynamic.
The way that questions spark interactive responses, drawing on the experience of your teacher, leading to other questions that then spiral into discussions amongst the group is one of the best aspects of the class situation.
The thing that your antenatal classes should help you to do is to come away with a clarity of expectations, with a real sense of how the maternity systems work, feeling that you have gained an understanding of the medical management that may be offered, understanding what the various interventions can do, when they may be helpful, when they may be detrimental.
One of most important things that the process of the antenatal classes should help you to sort out is learning the things that work for you, and the things that may not work for you. It is the aspect of class discussions, and the chats immediately after class, and the discussions with your partner afterwards at home over a cup of tea that so often lead you towards recognising the things that you feel are most important to you about how you would choose to labour.
Informed Choice - the most important way to manage your labour
It is, sadly, fair to say that many couples are concerned about the possibility of the labour potentially taking them down the track of ‘the intervention cascade’, that situation when one intervention leads to another which leads to another, and sometimes couples feel that the labour has not been a good experience, that things maybe should have happened differently.
This is the classic ‘bad birth experience’ story that I’m sure many of you have heard from various friends and colleagues.
This situation often happens when couples are not well prepared, they are not making informed choices, and they may come away feeling that they had no sense of control over what happened. Antenatal classes are an excellent way to prepare yourselves to be able to make those informed choices, sure in the knowledge of what works for you.
So don’t hesitate to book early, any time after 12 weeks, or if perhaps you did wait a bit too long, well then get cracking on finding that word of mouth recommendation or that internet link that brings you to a class that will help you to prepare for your labour.
And fingers crossed, you will indeed find some lovely new friends...