Last updated on Feb 18th, 2021 at 12:34 pm

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, it’s a good idea to consider attending antenatal classes. Why? Because having a healthy pregnancy is one of the best ways to ensure you have a happy and healthy birth experience and you can never be too prepared.

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Attending antenatal classes will give you and your partner an opportunity to ask questions you don’t always remember at your regular pregnancy check-ups. You’ll also meet other expecting parents and make new friends too. Plus, birthing experts are at the forefront of new technologies, trends or birthing practices so it’s a great way to gather new information without having to do the research yourself.

When to start antenatal classes 

“A good time to start these classes is between 22 and 26 weeks, when there’s still sufficient time to make important decisions about caregivers, clinics and birth options,” writes Sister Lilian in her book Pregnancy and Birth Companion (Human & Rousseau).

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Your antenatal class instructor will also be able to give you valuable advice to help you prepare for the first six weeks after birth, including breastfeeding information, which postnatal supplements to take etc.

ALSO SEE: Your guide to antenatal checks

Benefits of antenatal care

In addition to seeing your gynaecologist for regular scans and check-ups, here’s a few more reasons why you should sign up to antenatal classes or a course.

  • It boosts awareness which can help to prevent complications. “A small minority of pregnant women develop complications such as hypertension and diabetes. If you’re under the watchful eye of healthcare experts, any complications will be picked up early and you’ll be monitored and treated accordingly,” explains midwifery consultant, Dr Diana du Plessis.
  • Antenatal care also gives caregivers a chance to explain things in more detail. For instance, you might discuss the importance of proper nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Antenatal classes will help you to gain insight and get fact-based information on your pregnancy, birthing options, breastfeeding and caring for your new baby so you can make informed choices.
  • “Antenatal classes also give partners an opportunity to understand the whole process of pregnancy, birth and early parenting,” says Sister Lilian.

How to find an antenatal class?

  • Ask friends and family members who have already attended classes for suggestions.
  • There should be information on classes at your doctor’s consulting rooms as well.
  • Search for antenatal classes in your area on the Internet.

How to choose the right class for you

This all depends on how much time you have available and which areas of pregnancy, labour and childbirth you’d like covered in your classes. If you’re expecting baby 2 or 3 you might want to attend a specific hypnobirthing class rather than a general antenatal class. But, if you’re a first-time parent, it’s wise to pick an antenatal course which covers pregnancy, labour and birth, as well as general baby care topics – and coping strategies for moms and dads too!

Sister Lilian has been a leading South African pregnancy and parenting advisor for many years, is a best-selling author and has often appeared on radio and TV, and in parenting magazines, as South Africa’s go-to parenting expert. Find out more about The Sister Lilian Centre here.