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General Information and Developments

Antenatal Classes

What types of antenatal courses are available?

All units offer antenatal classes. In some units a general antenatal class is the only offering. In other units classes are offered to specific groups (see below). Some classes are routinely offered and others are offered as required or on a 1:1 basis. No unit offers a class specifically for assisted conception pregnancies. A few hospitals provide, or are planning to provide, hypnobirthing and other types of antenatal classes.

General antenatal course, open to all (offered in 13 out of 21 units):
First-time parents – mothers only (offered in 9 out of 21 units):
First-time parents – couples only (offered in 10 out of 21 units):
Refreshers (2nd or subsequent pregnancy/birth) (offered in 12 out of 21 units):
Teenage parents (offered in 15 out of 21 units):
Twins or other multiples (offered in 5 out of 21 units):
Women hoping for a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC) (offered in 3 out of 21 units):
Other types of antenatal classes offered:

Please click here for more details, e.g. class location, times, etc.

Are there enough places in the antenatal classes for everyone who wants to book in?

Most units said that they had enough places, but some units emphasised the need to book early to get a place on the more popular courses.

Can the unit accommodate ALL women who would like to avail of classes?:

What topics can I expect to be covered in the courses?

We asked the units what topics they typically covered in an antenatal course. All units stated they included the following topics: diet, exercise, minor disorders of pregnancy, signs of labour, when to go to hospital, stages of labour, pain relief options, positions for birth, relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, breastfeeding, postnatal care of mother, caring for newborn and SIDS prevention. All units except one of the midwifery-led units include caesarean birth. Other topics include:

Show a birth video (included in classes in 15 out of 21 units):
Informed decision making (included in classes in 19 out of 21 units):
Infant resuscitation (included in classes in 10 out of 21 units):
Infant feeding with artificial milk (included in classes in 3 out of 21 units):
Birth registration (included in classes in 17 out of 21 units):
Baby massage (included in classes in 14 out of 21 units):
Postnatal depression (included in classes in 20 out of 21 units):

How will classes help me make decisions about my labour and caring for my baby?

In general, responses from units reflect the emphasis on providing information and opportunity for discussion. Some units use interactive group work to help parents explore their options. Seven units mentioned birth plans.

How is informed decision making promoted in the classes?:
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Will I learn about preparing a birth plan at the antenatal classes?

Fourteen units cover birth plan preparation routinely, with others covering it on request. Only one unit (MRH Portlaoise) said "no" to this question, whereas the Rotunda stated, "birth preferences are discussed and it's up to the individual woman/couple if they wish to make a plan."

Yes (in all courses):
Yes (when requested):
Yes (in some courses):

Are there opportunities for me to practise physical skills for labour in an antenatal class?

Most units teach about breathing, positions and coping in labour, and most provide an opportunity to practise at some stage during the course; other units are limited to demonstration-only due to space restrictions. Three units answered "no" to the question.

Opportunities to practise skills:
Additional information:
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How am I helped to understand and explore my options for pain relief and methods of coping in labour?

Responses from units varied from basic explanation and provision of leaflets, to discussion of all options, to interactive sessions on coping in labour. Several units cover using water and other drug-free methods of managing pain in labour. Only four units mentioned specifically covering the side effects of commonly used pain relief.

Explore drug and drug-free options for labour pain:
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Will I learn about breastfeeding?

All but one unit (Letterkenny UH) have a breastfeeding element in their antenatal course. The amount of time given to it varies from 20 minutes to 2 hours. In seventeen units a separate class on breastfeeding is offered.

Breastfeeding covered in antenatal classes (20 out of 21 units):
Additional information, including how much time per course and topics covered:
Separate breastfeeding class available (17 out of 21 units):
Additional information, including topics covered:

If I have additional needs, are there classes to suit?

We asked if units offer classes to meet the following additional needs:-

Hard of hearing (offered in 14 out of 21 units):
Where English is a 2nd language (offered in 13 out of 21 units):
Visually impaired (offered in 13 out of 21 units):
Late bookers (offered in 15 out of 21 units):
Referrals from social workers (offered in 16 out of 21 units):
Single parents(offered in 8 out of 21 units):
LGBT parents (offered in 10 out of 21 units):
Members of the Travelling Community (offered in 10 out of 21 units):
Asylum seekers or refugees (offered in 10 out of 21 units):
Parents who have experienced a previous pregnancy loss (offered in 10 out of 21 units):
Parents who have experienced a previous preterm birth (offered in 10 out of 21 units):

What training do the staff running the antenatal classes have?

We asked questions about who runs the classes, their breastfeeding training and their qualifications in antenatal education.

Generally, midwives and physiotherapists lead hospital antenatal classes, but sometimes dieticians, lactation consultants or anaesthetists are involved too. At the very least, they are trained to promote and support breastfeeding in the same way as their colleagues in the rest of the unit, but many have higher levels of training, such as lactation consultant. Antenatal education staff in twelve units have specific antenatal education training.

Who provides the antenatal classes:
Breastfeeding training/education programme:
Percentage of antenatal education staff trained/educated on breastfeeding:
Percentage of antenatal education staff with a diploma (or higher) in antenatal education:
Details of antenatal education qualifications:
Frequency of antenatal education updates: