Antenatal Education used to just be a course offered by NCT, the UK’s biggest parenting charity. NCT are still synonymous with Antenatal Classes, to the extent that often I will hear someone talking or see someone post about their “NCT course”, only for it to turn out that they didn’t do an NCT course, but another one! There are now many other national and local organisations and individuals offering Antenatal Classes, so plenty of options for parents to choose from. But what’s the difference?
Generally, an Antenatal Course is designed to cover antenatal topics, primarily labour and birth, though there is usually some postnatal content too, such as recovering from labour and birth, and caring for a baby. Each provider will offer a slightly different “syllabus”, so it’s worth checking what they say they will cover, and working out for yourself if that’s what you want to know about. These courses are usually designed to offer information across the full spectrum of birth experiences, and work on the premise that “informed is best”. Some courses are run face-to-face, and others are offered online, either live or working at your own pace. I’ve written more about general antenatal courses here.
You really get what you pay for with these courses – your local hospital may offer a free antenatal course which is usually run by midwives, who undoubtedly know their subject matter but may be in a position of delivering a lot of information to a big group in little time, which may not be the best way for parents to pick up the info they need. I should add here that that’s not always the case! Some midwives have incredible facilitation skills, and indeed some of my NCT colleagues run their hospital’s offering and do a brilliant job, because that is their job!
Some companies or individuals also offer more specific courses or workshops related to an aspect of birth, such as Active Birth or Hypnobirthing. These focus on the physical skills that are shown to improve a woman’s experience of coping with pain in labour, and to improve the likelihood of her having a physiologically normal labour and birth. Some parents choose these courses in addition to some form of more general antenatal education, and others choose to only do one of these and protect their intention to birth a certain way. Something that I think is important to mention here, is that if you don’t value and believe in what the course covers, you probably won’t benefit from it when it comes to the actual labour and birth. These courses usually need some further practice between the end of the course and labour in order for the woman to experience the most benefit, and if you don’t believe in it, you just won’t do it!
Finally, some birth educators (including doulas) may offer 1:1 sessions and these can be bespoke according to your personal needs. These will most likely be more expensive per hour than a group course, but can be particularly valuable where parents may need a “sounding board”; someone to work through any concerns with, or support them with more in-depth information. They may also work better for parents who are “time-poor”, as it is often quicker to discuss a topic 1:1 than it is in a group setting.
Hopefully, that makes things a bit clearer if you’re faced with a lot of different options being available to you! Take a look at the “Services” page if you’d like to know more about courses I offer.