Learning about pregnancy, birth and parenting

Many couples, especially those expecting their first baby, go to classes to learn about pregnancy, giving birth and parenting. Find out more about these classes, including who offers them, when to book and what things the classes cover.

Mum talking to Midwife
Childbirth education or antenatal classes

When you see your midwife (or specialist doctor), they will tell you a lot about pregnancy, giving birth and afterwards. Going to childbirth education or antenatal classes can also help you to learn more about pregnancy and how to prepare for labour, birth and the first few weeks after baby is born.

You’ll also meet other pregnant couples – many class groups become friends during these classes and go on to have regular catch-ups (also called ‘coffee groups’) after their babies are born.

Who offers the classes?

Talk to your midwife (or specialist doctor) about the classes that are available in your area. Most district health boards provide a limited number of free classes. There are also privately run classes; you will have to pay for these. They may be held by private birthing centres, by Parents Centre or by another provider.

Classes are usually 12–14 hours long, split over 6 or 7 evening sessions. Some may be held on Saturday mornings, or over a weekend.

When to book

While you don’t need to attend classes until around 30 weeks into your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to book in early – before you are 16 weeks’ pregnant or even earlier. Some women like to go to early pregnancy classes that are available in some places.

What will the class cover?

Depending on the needs of the parents in the class, more or less time will be spent on the topics in the list below.


  • Your midwife’s (or specialist doctor’s) role in late pregnancy, labour and birth and the first 4–6 weeks after baby is born.
  • Being healthy and well – avoiding smoking, alcohol and drugs; immunisation during pregnancy.
  • Eating well and being active.
  • Scans and screening during pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy discomforts – which are common and which are warning signs.
  • Preparing to be a parent.
  • Preparing your home for baby – what clothing, furniture and bedding you need for baby.
  • Preparing for labour and birth – including healthy exercise and what to pack for the hospital or preparing for a home birth.

Labour and birth

  • Options for where to give birth.
  • The stages of labour – the signs and stages of labour.
  • Labour coping skills.
  • Role of the father/support person during labour.
  • Managing pain.
  • Possible complications and how these might be managed.

The first few weeks after baby is born

  • Skin-to-skin contact straight after the birth.
  • Breastfeeding.
  • Your body after the birth.
  • Vitamin K and newborn screening.
  • Caring for your baby – bonding with them, settling them to sleep, responding to their cries.
  • Safe sleep.
  • Postnatal depression.
  • Enrolling baby with a general practice (doctor and practice nurse) and a Well Child Tamariki Ora service.
  • Immunisation and the National Immunisation Register.

Learning about being a parent

Other classes and services are available to help you learn about being a parent. Click on the links below to find out more.

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