Antenatal Classes

Antenatal Classes

What are antenatal classes?

The main aim of antenatal classes is to impart knowledge about all aspects of pregnancy, labour and the basic care of the new baby to mothers-to-be. This is done through a combination of theory and practical physical exercises, and the atmosphere is usually one of relaxation, enjoyment and good humour. Partners are invited to attend all antenatal classes, and the majority of them do.

Antenatal classes are run at all major Irish maternity hospitals. These classes normally take place in the physiotherapy department and are given by highly qualified and experienced physiotherapists and midwives.

Classes vary in duration, but they would normally consist of 6-10 sessions with each one lasting one and a half to two hours.

Because of the national policy to promote breastfeeding, antenatal classes in all Irish maternity hospitals, and indeed most private classes, actively encourage mothers-to-be to consider breastfeeding their baby. The positive benefits of breastfeeding are explained in detail, as is the technique and the problems new mothers are likely to experience as they begin breastfeeding.

Are there classes in local towns?

Practically every town in the country now has organised antenatal classes at various times of the year. These classes are usually run on a private basis by trained midwives, and further information can be obtained from the local health board office or through the local hospital. Advertisements for antenatal classes are often placed in the local and regional newspapers as well.

What takes place in the classes?

Antenatal classes can be broadly divided into two sections. The first section deals with the theory of pregnancy, childbirth and caring for the new baby, while the second section concentrates on physical exercises, which are designed to relax the pregnant woman during labour. These exercises place special emphasis on the deep breathing techniques that should be performed during the first and second stages of labour.

Advice is also given to mothers-to-be about:

Do antenatal classes advocate natural childbirth?

In general, antenatal classes are designed to impart information to mothers-to-be and their partners. All the options for pain relief in childbirth are explained and women can then make up their own minds, based on the knowledge they have acquired. Epidural anaesthesia is by the most popular form of pain relief in Irish maternity hospitals today, and the vast majority of women who attend antenatal classes opt for an epidural when giving birth.

Are classes free?

Antenatal classes in maternity hospitals are usually provided free of charge to patients attending the antenatal clinic. Classes, which are provided in towns around the country are operated on a private basis and are subject to a fee which is usually paid at the commencement of the classes.

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