Antenatal Classes: Worth Paying For?

Health | by | 27th Sep 2016


Antenatal classes help prepare a parent for childbirth, as well as how to care and feed for a newborn baby.

The NHS provide free antenatal classes for soon-to-be mums and dads. There are also companies, organisations and charities that put on parentcraft classes. They usually charge a fee for this service. The biggest of these paid-for providers is NCT (National Childbirth Trust), which has been providing antenatal classes since 1959.

So we asked 2 mums and 1 dad that recently went to NCT classes in South Wales:

Are antenatal classes worth paying for?

“It’s an opportunity to make loads of really good friends.”

Yeah, quite an interesting experience! Basically it’s totally worth it in respects to making friends with other mums. You can chat about all the boring things together once the babies are born and exchange bodily fluid stories at 3am when you’re all still awake.

In terms of the actual classes there was a lot of blether on how natural birth/breast feeding/minimal interventions/home births are all best. Whilst this was going on they negated to mention that childbirth and breastfeeding is surprisingly frigging hard. You just need to do what’s best for you and therefore your little one.

So! A lot of horrendous photos that instil fear and rolling on big balls during the classes, which is safe to say my partner thought were a joke. On the other hand, it’s an opportunity to make loads of really good friends that made the first bit much better and easier during the panic weeks.

Rachael, Vale Of Glamorgan

Money pram for antenatal classes article
Photo Credit: Dominik Meissner via Compfight cc

“It was good to ask all of the stupid questions you’ve always wondered about.”

I think it was really worth doing. I went into it thinking I knew a lot about kids, birth etc. but it was quite an eye opener! Although it was quite a big time commitment we learned loads. It was nice to do as a couple and good for the girls to make friends. They still meet up now despite being on baby no 2. The guys have also met up for curries, night out, day at the rugby etc. which is good if you don’t have many ‘dad’ mates.

I think it was slightly on the expensive side and this might put some off. The class joked it was a very middle class thing to do. It was quite basic in setting and just 1 teacher with her own kit. However I guess it’s a charity, so can’t moan about the cost really and we did get free coffee and biscuits!

Where's her belly button for antenatal classes article

We would certainly recommend it. It helped us plan how we wanted the labour to go and they were really supportive of home birth which suited us (the other 6 couples thought we were crazy). Also learned about what life would be like as new parents, which was also helpful. And as I said, it was great for the girls to have the support of the others. This included being able to send each other questions on the WhatsApp group they set up.

“Seeing different stages of baby poo replicated in nappies using mustard and Marmite was quite disturbing but strangely accurate!”

It was also good to ask all of the stupid questions you’ve always wondered about and not feel stupid when everyone else wanted to hear the answer! I can’t imagine going into the most important and probably scary event of your life without the facts but maybe that’s just me!

We had a funny moment learning about how to help the ladies in the final stages of labour. Basically they have to rock their hips and the teacher played Shania Twain’s Man! I Feel Like A Woman. She then asked the dads to stand behind the ladies with hands on their hips and sway to the music…

I found this quite amusing having only known these people a matter of hours but NCT classes seem to make you all best mates as soon as you enter the room! At least I remembered the tempo on labour day!

Also seeing different stages of baby poo replicated in nappies using whole grain mustard, Marmite etc. was quite disturbing but strangely accurate!

It was also really interesting hearing how others planned to parent and hard not to judge! The photo of babies crowning was less helpful….

Dai, Cardiff

“I didn’t notice a significant difference between the paid and free courses.”

I attended antenatal classes ran by my local hospital (free) and also by NCT (paid).

The NCT classes were spread over 2 days and only had 6 mums (all first-timers), whereas the NHS antenatal class was delivered like a lecture to a big group of parents (mostly first-timers).

The NCT classes had a coordinator who emailed the group regularly with useful information and also organised a get-together for mums with their newborns after we’d all popped. This was so we could share our challenges and learn useful tips from one another.

Baby diagram for antenatal classes article

The NHS antenatal class was a one-off, organised by the midwives and held at my local hospital (This can vary in different health authority areas). I found it really useful when they took us up to visit the labour and maternity wards and showed us where the action took place. They also explained what facilities were available e.g. birthing pool. The real highlight of the class for me was when they “borrowed” a newborn and showed us all how to bathe a screaming and squirming baby. This was much better than pretending to wash and change a dolly.

“Don’t let the midwives bully you into doing things you don’t want to do.”

In terms of content, I didn’t notice a significant difference between the paid and free courses. In fact I think if I were to do it again, I’d just opt for the NHS class and also make sure I take every opportunity to ask my midwife everything I need to know.

My two pieces of advice to an expectant mum would be:

1. Don’t worry too much about detailing your birth plan, chances are you won’t get to use much of it. Have a general idea of how you’d like to proceed with the birth but remember that most of it will be out of your control. It’s more important to focus on having a safe and comfortable delivery rather than following every little detail in your birth plan.

2. Don’t let the midwives bully you into doing things you don’t want to do. This is in particular reference to breastfeeding. Whilst I am a strong supporter of breastfeeding, I do think this is a personal choice and no mothers should be judged by or coerced by anyone about it.

Charlotte, Bridgend

NCT’s antenatal classes and workshops range in price from £10.80 an hour to £22. They have locations across Wales, click here to search for your nearest oneFor info on NHS antenatal classes, have a look at this page.

As well as NCT there are other organisations across Wales that provide antenatal classes, see the relevant thread on NetMums for details:

We’ve heard from 3 parents above, but what’s your experience of antenatal classes? Let us know in the comments below?


Want to find out about services available to you and your child in your area? Would you like to chat about family matters in general? Then get in touch with the FamilyPoint Cymru helpline.

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Read some of our other articles:

Encouraging better behaviour: positive parenting tips

Postnatal Depression: The Sad Reality (Part One)

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