Childbirth education/antenatal classes provide the opportunity to learn more about pregnancy and preparation for labour, birth and the first few weeks after baby is born. These groups also provide an opportunity to meet others expecting a baby and many groups continue to meet regularly, and can provide great support networks, well into the future.
A range of publicly funded, free to access pregnancy and parenting education sessions are available regionally throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. There are also numerous other programmes available that charge a fee. Check with your midwife to find out what is available in your region.
Maternity facilities often run their own programmes so you may be interested in attending sessions at the place you plan to birth, while organisations such as Homebirth Aotearoa run classes at a range of venues around Aotearoa New Zealand. Most classes offered tend to start when you are around 30 weeks pregnant but it’s a good idea to check out your available options and book early.
The diversity of programmes available also include Kaupapa Māori childbirth education, and sessions that are focused on Pasifika parents. These programmes may be run by Māori and Pacific organisations which are community based and usually free to attend.
Attending group sessions can provide a range of benefits including meeting other pregnant women and their support people, hearing about a range of topics about pregnancy, labour, birth, what to expect after the baby is born, and adjustment to parenting. These classes can help your support people learn how they can contribute. There is also the opportunity to ask questions and hear from a range of voices during the sessions.
You can find out about a range of ways to help you work through your labour and birth. Your midwife will also talk with you about your labour and birth plans. In many regions there are also other courses that pregnant women can attend such as hypnobirthing training, mindfulness focused programmes, and pregnancy yoga.
Some regions also offer dedicated breastfeeding education sessions which can be useful to understand more about what to expect and how you can help your baby get off to a great start with feeding. Practices like mother/baby skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and supporting the well newborn baby to self-latch at the breast after birth support early breastfeeding initiation. If you haven’t breastfed before it’s also really helpful to see breastfeeding ‘in action’ while you are pregnant. All of the breastfeeding support groups welcome pregnant women into their informal sessions.
After the birth / support groups
There are a range of groups available for parents after the birth. Some parenting programmes have sessions that they offer after the birth too, so women and their support people who attended sessions while pregnant can meet up again after they have had their babies. For example, Parent’s Centre and Homebirth Aotearoa offer postnatal catch up sessions. There are different sessions on offer depending on where you live. There are also a range of groups that focus on breastfeeding support, but they welcome all women, and provide support for all baby feeding questions and challenges. Check with your midwife to find out what is available in your region.