Antenatal classes - preparing you for the birth

Antenatal classes give you a chance to learn about what happens during labour and birth, as well as what happens after your baby is born.

Antenatal classes help you prepare for the birth of your baby and how to look after yourself and your new baby once they have been born.  

They are group classes, where a group of parents-to-be whose babies are due around the same time are brought together. This means they are a good way to meet other pregnant women and birthing people in your area. 

Friends made at antenatal classes often meet with each other through the first few months with their new baby and can be a great source of support for each other.

If you are working as an employee, your employer should give you time off to go to antenatal classes if they happen during the working week.

What happens in antenatal classes?

The topics covered in antenatal classes might include:

In the classes you can find out about the different options for labour and delivery to help you make your own birth plan. You will be able to talk about your plans and any concerns you have with the class leader and other parents-to-be who are expecting babies around the same time as you.

There may also be time to talk to the class leader and ask questions on a one-to-one basis during any breaks in the sessions.

If you have any concerns or worries about your pregnancy you may find it helpful to tell the course leader either before or at your first class so they can find ways to support you.

How can I find antenatal classes near me?

Classes that are run by the NHS are free of charge if you are entitled to free NHS care. Ask your midwife, health visitor or GP about NHS classes that are near you. There are other organisations that run antenatal classes too. These are likely to cost money. The NHS has a useful tool to help you find classes in your area.  

You can go to more than one class if you want to.

Private classes often co-ordinate meet-ups between parents in local areas afterwards. Even if you do not go to their antenatal classes, this may be a good option for linking up with new parents near you.

Antenatal classes that are not run by the NHS may not be led by a midwife or a healthcare professional.  

When should I go to antenatal classes?

Most antenatal classes start around 8-10 weeks before your baby is due, when you are around 30-32 weeks pregnant.  

Antenatal classes can get booked up quickly so it is a good idea to ask about them early on. That way, you will make sure you get a place in the class you want.

What if I cannot get to antenatal classes?

Do not worry. Although they can be helpful, there are other ways to find the information and support you need. Talk to your community midwife if you are not able to go to classes.  

We have lots of information that covers everything you need to know about having a safe and healthy pregnancy.

You can also speak to the Tommy’s midwives if you need support. Call our pregnancy line on 0800 014 7800 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or email us at [email protected].

There are also online pregnancy forums. These give you the chance to chat to other pregnant people and parents.  

If you are looking for people giving birth near you around the same time as you there are also apps, such as Peanut, that can help you with this.

Do I need antenatal classes if I have already had a baby?

Antenatal classes are not just for first-time parents. If you are having another baby, you may benefit from going again. Classes can be especially useful if you plan to give birth differently this time – if you had to have a caesarean the first time, for example. Classes may also be helpful if there is a big gap between your pregnancies.  

Parenting classes for new parents  

As well as antenatal classes that you attend during your pregnancy, there are also classes aimed at new parents.

Depending on where you live, your local authority or health trust might offer parent education classes. Some of these may be free, but others will charge a fee.

These classes are usually for anyone who is in a parenting role, so they are suitable for parents grandparents, step-parents and carers. Some are just for new parents. You can ask about classes for parents of babies at your local family centre or ask your midwife or health visitor what is available in your area. 

NHS. When to have antenatal classes (Page last reviewed: 17 March 2021 Next review due: 17 March 2024)

Review dates
Reviewed: 06 July 2023
Next review: 29 June 2026