Antenatal classes provide you with information about pregnancy, labour and delivery, and baby care. Many of them focus on labour and delivery alone, but others include practical advice on how to care for your baby and adjust to parenthood.
Antenatal classes are provided by your hospital and you will need to telephone them to book your place. Classes are generally offered for expectant mothers alone, or for couples from about 30 weeks.
Some hospitals provide classes for couples with special needs. You will need to contact your local hospital or the Health Service Executive (HSE) for details. You can read more in our document on antenatal visits.
Time off work and antenatal classes
Section 8 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 allows pregnant women to take paid time off work to attend one set of antenatal classes (other than the last 3 classes in a set). For example, if you are attending a set of 8 classes and this is your first pregnancy in employment you are only entitled to be paid while attending 5 of those classes. You do not have the right to paid time off work to attend antenatal classes each time you are pregnant and in employment. The entitlement covers one set of classes only. If for any reason you are unable to attend some classes due to reasons beyond your control (that is, premature birth, illness, miscarriage or stillbirth) you can carry over your entitlement to paid time off work to attend any untaken classes to your subsequent pregnancies (except the last 3 in a set).
Under the Maternity Protection (Time off for Ante–Natal Classes) Regulations 2004 expectant fathers have a once-off right to paid time off work to attend the 2 antenatal classes immediately prior to the birth. This entitlement does not extend to every pregnancy while the woman is in employment – it is only a once-off right.
In order to take this time off work, the employee must notify their employer in writing at least 2 weeks before classes commence, outlining the dates and times of the classes. Employers can request written evidence of the classes (dates and times).
Classes are generally for a number of sessions and topics covered may include:
- Looking after your health during pregnancy
- Growth and development of the baby during pregnancy
- Options for labour and delivery
- Pain relief during labour
- When to go into hospital
- What to expect during labour
- Breastfeeding support and advice
- Emotional aspects of becoming a parent
- Physical care of your baby
- Returning to work/childcare arrangements
Antenatal classes held by your local public maternity hospital are free of charge. A fee is payable for private classes. Check with your maternity hospital for more information.
How to apply
Your midwife or doctor will probably ask you if you plan to attend an antenatal class at the hospital. These classes are generally busy, so you will need to book early. You can find contact information for public hospitals here.
Where to apply
For further information on your entitlement to take paid time off work to attend antenatal classes and general information on employment rights contact: