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Only just pregnant and sooooo many Antenatal/Pregnancy Classes! Which ones and when?!

There is so much to choose from now! Antenatal Education, Birth & Beyond, free or paid, yoga, pilates, hypnobirthing, water aerobics......agghh? What's the difference and which ones should you do?

Pregnant women overwhelmed by choices of antenatal and pregnancy classes

Well, the answer is....the ones you want to! Women in the past usually had a strong community of women around them. They would have lived and breathed pregnancy, childbirth and feeding from an early age. These days, it's easier to feel a bit isolated and nervous. Rather than dive under your duvet and pretend it's not happening, use these tips to choose what prep to do:

1. Think of it as building your own community Once you've found your tribe(s), suddenly you have access to what all your mum-to-be friends are finding out too, as well as what you find out yourself, which you share with them.

2. Decide your budget. It's more than classes: it's confidence, community and support - priceless! A great start for your baby.

3. What times and days are good for you? Practicalities alone will mean you just can't attend everything.

4. What's your preferred way of learning? Love to discuss and debate? Prefer just to listen? Enjoy peace and quiet with information dripped in? There are many styles of classes with some online options if groups just aren't for you.

Liz Sheridan BellyTots, Daddy & Me, pregnancy yoga

5. Find your class!

  • Ask your friends - what did they find helpful?

  • Free classes

- Ask your Midwife (and have a look on the website of your unit for what your local NHS provision is). Free tours of your unit and possibly a class too are common. It's never too early to book your space, these can be very popular indeed and get filled quickly - book now and cancel later if you need to, rather than miss out.

- Children's Centres are invaluable and usually provide a free Antenatal Course, sometimes in conjunction with your unit. Most parents would do this as well as the tour of their unit; unless your unit is providing you with a few Antenatal Classes. Children's Centres may also provide other free courses like Baby First Aid too.

  • Pay for Antenatal Classes. If you pay for an antenatal class, you probably don't need to also do the Children's Centre classes unless you'd like to. Antenatal classes are normally taken later in pregnancy, from about 28 - 32 weeks. Book early - even as soon as you're 12 weeks! NCT classes, for example, can book up very quickly indeed. When choosing your paid-for Antenatal Classes, think: what's their training/ background/ philosophy? Usually paying for the Antenatal Classes means: smaller groups; people more local to you; time to socialise and learn; more in-depth information; a wide range of choices considered; and lots of time for discussion and questions. These aspects may not be possible on the free courses. Incidentally, you're more likely to bond with other people in the group if the classes are shorter and spaced out over 3 or 4 weeks.

  • Hypnobirthing is a great way to prepare for birth without being hypnotised! You can use books, CDs, downloaded audio, 1to1, group courses and online courses. There is nothing weird about these classes; they simply seek to help women prepare mentally and emotionally in a positive way. To rethink how they're approaching birth to ensure they're feeling positive and confident. Lots of effective techniques for managing the powerful physical sensations of birth as well as the emotional aspects, which we often underestimate. Try Netmums for providers and asking in online forums.

  • Pregnancy/Antenatal Yoga, Pilates, aqua aerobics and/or relaxation classes, run every week and can be taken from 12 weeks - this is my speciality at BellyTots :). Maintaining or building fitness in pregnancy is really helpful and has many benefits for Mums and babies - including shortening labour! It's also a great way to really get to know other women who are pregnant as you share your pregnancy together and see each other often over time. Most classes offer a little socialising time too. Netmums is a great place to explore the possibilities in your local area. Facebook is great for finding local providers too.

  • Online provision is a growing area, have a google if you want to add that to your experience or can't get out to classes.

  • Online meet a mum associations here.

In the end, there's no right or wrong about this. Start from thinking about what you need to feel confident, prepared, excited and supported - fit in what you can without exhausting yourself.......and go for it! If you think my classes would be a good fit for you - I'd love to see you! Click here to try.

Liz Sheridan pregnancy yoga, BellyTots, ruislip, northwood, harrow, ickenham

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