Why are antenatal classes important? 

You will hear very mixed reviews about antenatal classes (also known as antenatal courses, prenatal classes, bump classes or bump and baby classes). Some couples swear by them for the vital information required to write a comprehensive birth plan; some women feel they need the information about infant feeding and all things 'baby'. Some parents say their antenatal classes were a vital source of peer support (that is, they met other parents at antenatal classes or antenatal groups) and that they remained friends with the other parents in the group for many years. 
With all this is mind, where do we start, when we are considering antenatal classes? And do we really NEED to do antenatal classes (especially if it isn't our first pregnancy)?. Why do antenatal classes? Are antenatal classes necessary? If so, when should I start them? 
New Born Baby

Should I start antenatal classes and when? 

You should start as early as possible, and yes, for most of us, antenatal education classes are still HUGELY beneficial in a second or subsequent pregnancy (especially if you are planning to deliver somewhere different this time or it has been more than a year or so since your last delivery). Especially if you are planning to deliver somewhere different this time, or it has been more than a year or two since your last delivery. So, we say by 25 weeks and certainly no later than 30 weeks pregnant. Things can change at local NHS Trusts so quickly, but the midwife running your classes should be abreast of any changes! 

NHS or private antenatal classes? 

Antenatal classes come in two main forms - NHS birth preparation classes and private antenatal bump and birth classes (which you pay for). Either kind will get booked up very early, so as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed and dated, if you think you’d like antenatal classes, get them booked in. Ask your midwife how to do this if you are booking NHS classes, or if you’re looking for private classes, The Aster Baby Scan Clinic offers private classes; Alternatively try Google and look for local classes with good reviews. Word of mouth is also a good bet when looking for Antenatal classes. 

What is included in antenatal class? 

What will they cover? I’m glad you asked! NHS provision may have similar but fewer sessions and may not be as in depth due to the number of sessions. Some Trusts will offer online courses only, others will offer anything from one to three sessions of free antenatal classes. The sessions will cover labour and delivery (including pain relief for labour), infant feeding (breast and/or bottle/formula feeding) and the newborn and developing infant. Unfortunately, some NHS trusts will only offer free antenatal classes if this is your first pregnancy (if this affects you, you may need to source private classes if you’d like them second or third time around). NHS antenatal classes also tend to start a little latter at around 30 to 32 weeks. 
Expectant Mums

What do I get with private antenatal classes? What other information do antenatal classes provide? 

Private classes will cover far more information and provide more opportunity for socialising and discussion about birth plans, mode of delivery etc – and they also tend to arrange reunions and get togethers after delivery which rarely happens with NHS classes (unless you organise them yourself). 
Private classes often provide contacts for baby first aid, lactation consultants, advice on postnatal resources, mummy MOT and 'Nearly New' sales. Private antenatal classes often have networks of other services such as doulas and birthing pool advice. Lots of parents say the support network they form at private antenatal classes is invaluable in the early months with a new baby. 
There is an advantage of NHS classes at your local hospital Trust over many private antenatal classes; they will be able to give you up-to-date information on - for example - what pain relief is available (and, for example, how the induction of labour process works) at your local trust. As the NHS sessions are delivered by a practising midwife from your chosen trust, you can be sure that the information they give you will be relevant to you, your loved ones and your pregnancy and delivery. Some private antenatal classes are run by people who are specifically trained antenatal education practitioners instead. 
Private antenatal classes also offer an advantage. They are available earlier than many NHS classes so you can access them from 25 weeks. You can also get taster sessions which allows you to shop around. The 'Bump and Birth Journey' antenatal class is led by an experienced, practising midwife with years of experience in antenatal education. Private antenatal classes can be bespoke, so can focus on (but are not limited to) partners’ antenatal classes, older mothers antenatal classes or twin birth antenatal classes, for example. hey can also provide additional information on pregnancy lifestyle and nutrition, exercise in pregnancy, pregnancy yoga and hypnobirthing/hypnotherapy birthing (amongst other things). 
Private antenatal classes tend to be offered either by practising NHS or independent midwives or the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). For mums that choose to have private maternity care by a private Obstetrician followed by delivery in a private pregnancy hospital, antenatal classes are a must and should be discussed at the first midwife appointment. 

Online or face to face antenatal classes. 

Some NHS Trusts offer free online antenatal classes. This is also true for some independent midwives who offer 'zoom' classes or online hypnobirthing classes. However the majority of patients do choose to attend classes in person where possible. 

So should you do NHS antenatal classes or private antenatal classes? 

If you can afford it (!) do BOTH - NHS classes AND private classes. This way you will get the most thorough and supportive experience from your classes, you know you are getting up-to-date clinical advice, but you will also get lots of other helpful information that your NHS team may just not have the time to give you during their set of classes, as well as hopefully creating a ready made support network.  
Whatever you choose good luck - and here’s to a happy, healthy pregnancy and a smooth delivery. 
We believe that the 'Bump and Birth Journey' antenatal class is a great option for expectant parents in Beds, Herts and Bucks who want the very best care and education for themselves and their babies. Here at The Aster scan clinic we are with you all the way!. If you'd like to try a trial session of our antenatal classes just drop us a line using the box below and we will get back to you as soon as we can! 
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