Prenatal Education: All You Need to Know Before and After Pregnancy

May 29, 2024  By: Women's Health Team


Content medically reviewed by Marie Jensen, RN

Congratulations, you're expecting a new bundle of joy! While this is an exciting time, it can also be overwhelming, and you likely have many questions. By taking prenatal education classes, you can learn valuable information on everything from the birthing process to breastfeeding to caring for your newborn.

“The goal of prenatal education is to guide you on your journey to parenthood by providing you with evidence-based information,” said Marie Jensen, prenatal educator at Essentia Health. “This not only brings peace of mind but allows you to achieve optimal health outcomes for your growing family.”

Prenatal education programs are led by health care professionals, including childbirth educators and lactation specialists, and can ease anxieties and help you feel empowered before giving birth.

Expecting to Be Expecting

You don’t have to know exactly when your family will expand to benefit from prenatal education. Classes can begin before you even become pregnant.

“When a woman makes a decision to seek pregnancy, I recommend preconception education,” Jensen said. “This can include an overall assessment with an obstetrician or midwife to review your health history and begin the discussion of pregnancy planning.”

At preconception education classes, you can learn about how to plan for a healthy pregnancy, including –

  • Fertility tracking
  • Immunizations and medication use
  • Preconception genetic testing
  • Prenatal nutrition and physical activity
  • Tobacco, alcohol, and drug cessation resources

The Importance of Prenatal Education During Pregnancy

Education is an important part of prenatal care. During the first trimester, prenatal education covers topics, such as –

  • What to expect at prenatal appointments
  • Recommended tests and screenings to identify and treat any conditions that might increase the risk of birth defects
  • Tips on healthy lifestyle habits, such as eating healthily, getting physical activity, handling stress while working, and staying healthy while traveling

Additional classes are available to women during the second and third trimesters. The classes you might take depend on your personal goals for your pregnancy and newborn care.

“In the second and third trimesters, pregnant women should discuss their birthing and infant feeding goals with their obstetrician or midwife,” Jensen said. “Knowing your goals can help your medical provider guide you to pertinent resources and classes that may benefit or be of interest to you.”

Classes offered include –

  • Childbirth education, which cover everything you need to know about the birth experience, including stages of labor and delivery
  • Lactation education to prepare for breastfeeding
  • Postpartum education, which covers tips to care for your health in the weeks after giving birth
  • Newborn education to help you be prepared for caring for your baby at home

Classes are also available for dads, siblings, and grandparents to help them get ready for the new member of the family. Birthing center tours and car seat clinics are also available at many health care facilities. Some classes can also be taken after the birth of the baby.

“Ideally, classes can be taken prior to the baby’s birth,” Jensen said. “But some can still be beneficial to families after the baby arrives.”

Not Just for First-Time Parents

You might think that prenatal education classes aren’t necessary if this isn’t your first pregnancy. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“Because every pregnancy is different, all topics of prenatal education may be beneficial to families with older children, as recommendations and resources change over time,” Jensen said. “For example, a woman who is pregnant with her second child may experience different discomforts and have new questions. Different prenatal classes may be recommended for her based on her current pregnancy.”

If you have had previous pregnancies, other reasons you might benefit from prenatal education include desiring a different delivery plan or planning to breastfeed when you didn’t in the past.

“A mother might have taken childbirth and lactation classes prior to her first baby’s birth, but her birth experience did not go as planned and she was unable to breastfeed,” Jensen explained. “For this new pregnancy, she may find that taking the latest childbirth and lactation course can help her feel more confident and prepared for this birth and breastfeeding experience.”

Prenatal Education You Can Count on at Essentia Health

At Essentia, prenatal educational programs and classes are available to both current patients and the public. In addition, many locations offer one-on-one visits with a nurse for information on prenatal care and lactation support visits. Visits are offered in person or via telehealth appointments.

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