Antenatal classes are widely available in Ireland and Northern Ireland, either through your local maternity hospital or privately with a trained midwife.
The classes are designed to provide you with information on pregnancy, labour and child birth and are well worth attending, especially if you are a first time mum.
Where are antenatal classes held?
Antenatal classes are provided by your hospital but private classes are run in most towns throughout the year. You can even arrange for a one-to-one antenatal class in the privacy of your own home with a private midwife.
What do the classes cover?
Antenatal classes prepare you for pregnancy, birth and baby. Classes are usually run by professional physiotherapists and midwives and provide a great opportunity to meet other mums-to-be and their partners and discuss any worries and concerns you might have about becoming a parent.
Classes are designed to be informative and combine theory with practical physical exercises.
Topics covered include: diet and exercise during pregnancy, sex pre and post baby, pain relief during labour, breathing techniques during labour, child birth options, breastfeeding, bathing baby,
Classes vary in length and number, but generally you can expect to attend 6-8 classes lasting between an hour and a half and two hours.
If you are paying for private classes these are often offered as a half or full day session.
How much do antenatal classes cost?
Antenatal classes’ provided through the hospital are free to attend but space is limited, especially for popular times, so you will need to book your place in advance. Rates for private classes and session vary depending on the provider. One session can cost around £45/€60, rising to £250/€300 for a day course.
Am I entitled to time off work to attend antenatal classes?
Yes. In Ireland the mother is entitled to paid time of work to attend one set of ante-natal classes except for the last three classes of the set. Fathers are entitled to paid time off to attend the last two classes in the set of ante-natal classes.
In Northern Ireland, mothers are entitled to ‘reasonable time’ off work for antenatal care (including relaxation or parent craft classes as well as medical examinations, if these are recommended by your doctor). Your employer can ask for evidence of antenatal appointments from the second appointment onwards. If asked you should show your employer a medical certificate showing you’re pregnant and an appointment card or some other written evidence of your appointment.
Fathers do not have a legal right to time off to accompany their partners to antenatal appointments as the right to paid time off only applies to pregnant employees.