Antenatal Classes: What Exactly Are They & Are They for You?

Many people know at least something about antenatal classes before they become pregnant - mostly, what they’ve seen in short movie scenes where pregnant people practise breathwork and simulate birth, sat in a circle with other parents-to-be. If that’s where your knowledge about antenatal classes begins and ends, then this article is for you!

Disclaimer: This article is aimed at supporting and informing you when making decisions for you and your family. The opinions shared in this article are based on research and trusted guidance but is in no way intended as medical advice. For any medical advice during your pregnancy, please speak with your GP and midwife.

What Are Antenatal Classes, Actually?

Simply put, antenatal classes aim to help you (and your partner) prepare for birth, as well as life after your new baby arrives. These classes usually run over 6 to 8 weeks in the last months of your pregnancy and are normally held once a week for about 2 hours. The kinds of topics you’ll cover in these classes range from how to stay healthy during pregnancy, to information on what happens during labour and birth, right through to feeding and caring for your baby (and everything in between).

Some classes/courses cover all these topics, while others specialise and focus more on certain aspects such as breathwork and relaxation, caring for your baby, or even refresher courses for second-time parents. Given that these classes become available to you during the last months of your pregnancy, that leaves you with some time at the beginning of your pregnancy to do some research and discover exactly what type of classes are available and which course suits you best.

*Note that if you’re expecting twins, it’s recommended to book your antenatal classes when you’re about 24 weeks pregnant, as your babies are likely to arrive early.

What Are the Benefits of Antenatal Classes?

Whether you’re expecting a baby for the very first time or it’s your second (or even third) time around, preparing for new life is a big deal. Antenatal classes can really help build confidence and support your journey to birth and beyond. Here is a list of some benefits to consider:

  • Preparing your mind and body

Antenatal classes are a great, interactive way to soak up a ton of important information, relevant to you in your current stage of pregnancy. These classes offer you the opportunity to learn about what your body is going through, what it will continue to go through, how best to manage those changes, and for you to ask questions all the way through. You can look forward to advice on healthy eating and gentle exercise, to coaching on pain management and breathwork.

  • Understanding the journey from pregnancy to birth

Your antenatal classes will give you a range of information about the labour and birthing process, including the details of different medical procedures and interventions, various birthing options, various birth positions to experiment with, and even information regarding the pain relief options available to you. You’ll likely also be walked through the possible emotional states that you might encounter during the birthing process, which is helpful for you (and your partner) to prepare for.

  • Planning for life after birth

Preparing for the birth of your baby is one thing, preparing for life after your little one arrives is a whole other thing. Luckily, antenatal classes aim to be helpful for both phases, and are known for helping parents-to-be prepare for this transition.

  • Fast-tracking your new social scene

What better place to meet other people in the exact same metaphorical boat as you than at antenatal class? Not only will you be surrounded by other mums and dads to be, who can share in one another’s questions and concerns, but you’ll likely make friends for life. It can be difficult to make the social transition from life before children to life after children, so antenatal classes are a great way to meet others who will be making that same transition with you.

NHS Antenatal Classes

The NHS offers free antenatal classes which are available to most pregnant women, depending on your location. When researching if this option is for you, speak with your GP or midwife about how to find classes held near you. Generally, classes run by the NHS are women-only groups, which is perfect for single mums-to-be, women who prefer to attend by themselves, or for women whose partners aren’t able to join them.

Private Antenatal Classes

You can also opt for private antenatal classes, of which there are many options to choose from - all offering slightly different approaches. Unlike the NHS classes, these ones are paid for and can cost up to a couple of hundred pounds – depending on the location and type of course. Private antenatal classes, courses and clubs can include yoga for pregnancy and doula services, bump & baby sociable supper clubs, baby first aid courses, hypnobirthing courses, and even aquanatal classes.


Antenatal classes are not compulsory or necessarily a ‘must’, however they can be helpful for you (and your partner) in building confidence and easing any worries you may have during your last months of pregnancy. Every person is different, has different options available to them and experiences life and pregnancy in different ways. These differences are what should inform your decision to either take or leave antenatal classes, as well which type of classes to pick if you do choose to attend.