How a Prenatal Class Can Help You Prepare for Baby’s Birth
Preparing for the arrival of your baby involves many things from setting up a nursery to attending OB appointments to arranging for maternity leave with your employer. It can be a very busy nine months.
But as the birth of your child gets closer it’s not uncommon, especially for first-time moms, to be feeling some nervousness about the process of actually giving birth. Or at least to have questions about what will happen during your birth.
I think we all pretty much know how babies come into the world. But every woman’s actual birth experience is different. And it’s natural to have questions and want to get information before your delivery.
Childbirth classes are a great way to get your questions answered. You can learn about the process of childbirth, stages of labor, and what happens to your body.
A prenatal class is also a great place to find out about the different options for pain management during labor.
Knowledge is power. And a prenatal class can provide you with the information you need to make informed choices before, during and after your delivery. And feeling more prepared for your baby’s birth can help give you confidence going into your delivery.
But do you really NEED a childbirth class? Let’s talk about some of the benefits, both obvious ones and not so obvious, as well as how to choose the right prenatal class for YOU.
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Do I Really Need a Birthing Class?
It probably won’t surprise you that the answer to “Do I really need a childbirth class?” is “It depends.”
There is no question that taking a prenatal class will help you be more prepared for your baby’s birth. Being armed with information about what to expect can help ease anxiety about childbirth. And it will help you and your partner navigate the decisions you need to make throughout the labor and delivery process.
That said, I’ve heard more than one mom say their childbirth class was a complete waste of time. Often though, feeling that you wasted your time on a prenatal class is the result of choosing the wrong class.
Doing a little research before choosing your birthing class can go a long way towards choosing one that will be worth your time and money.
What to Consider Before Choosing a Prenatal Class
Before you decide on the prenatal class that is right for you, there are a few things to consider. Do you want a specific type of birth experience?
For example, is an unmedicated birth important to you? If so, you may want to choose your class based on that outcome. And often that means seeking out a specific birthing class. For example Hypnobirthing or a class on The Bradley Method.
If you’re just looking for a basic overview of childbirth, labor and delivery than a basic online prenatal class or the class offered by your hospital or OB/GYN might be perfect for you.
But I Really Don’t Want to Take a Childbirth Class
If you’re a born researcher, have read multiple fact-based books on childbirth, watched how-to videos, studied the different decisions you might have to make during childbirth, or have already given birth, a childbirth class might feel unnecessary.
If that sounds like you, do talk to your doctor or midwife in detail. Make sure you have all your questions answered. I even suggest letting them know you’re thinking about skipping childbirth education.
They might try to persuade you otherwise, but they might also be able to suggest some reading or videos you can use to prepare yourself in lieu of a formal prenatal class.
What are the Benefits of a Childbirth Class?
A childbirth class is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the process of giving birth, get answers to your questions from a professional and to ease any anxiety you or your partner may have about your baby’s birth.
For many moms, their prenatal class helps them feel confident about labor and delivery and about their ability to make informed choices about pain relief and other issues that may come up during childbirth.
It can also be useful to meet other couples going through the same experience that you are.
A childbirth class is one of the best places for your partner to learn how they can best support you during your labor and your child’s birth.
If you take a class through the hospital where you plan to give birth you might also have the opportunity to tour the birthing center and find out how your specific hospital handles things that can vary from facility to facility.
For example, does your hospital have a lactation consultant for new moms planning to breastfeed? Will they take your baby to the nursery for any period of time? Or is baby always in the room with mom and dad? What is your birthing centers ability to handle an emergency situation for mom or baby? Do they have a NICU? Or is there the possibility of having to change locations in an emergency situation.
If you’re interested in non-medicated birth or any specific birth experience, a general prenatal class can help you learn about your options. At which point you might choose a specialized class for your needs (Hypnobirthing, The Bradley Method, Lamaze, etc).
What if I Don’t Have Time for a Prenatal Class?
People are busy. I totally get it. If you have other children, work schedules to coordinate, OB appointments, and other life commitments it can be hard to find time for a childbirth class.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t have options. When I was pregnant my husband and I were working opposite shifts so an evening class was out of the question. And many of our weekends were tied up too.
We ended up finding an all-day class on a Saturday that we could both get to. It wasn’t necessarily the class I would have chosen but given our schedules, it was one that worked.
The second option is to take an online prenatal class. And this is absolutely what I would have done had the option been available to me.
The Online Prenatal Class for Couples is perfect for busy couples who want to get a basic education about the birthing process so they can have a more relaxed pregnancy and birth. But don’t necessarily have time for 6 to 12 weeks of birthing classes in the evening or on the weekends.
You can take the birthing class in the comfort of your home at a time that works for you and your partner.
Any Reason Not to take a Childbirth Class?
This is a tough question to answer. But there are some people who may not see much benefit from a childbirth class.
You’re Not Interested in Learning Anything Beyond the Basics of Childbirth
If you’re a super relaxed mom who feels like whatever happens during your birth is what happens and you’re fine with that then maybe a prenatal class isn’t of much interest to you.
In that case, make sure you give any handouts from your doctor a thorough read. And make sure you understand the basics of labor and delivery so you can make informed choices. For some moms, a lot of independent research might be enough.
Pregnancy & Birth Information Overload Causes You Anxiety
If you’re an anxious mama-to-be and too much information about everything that could go wrong during birth causes you anxiety and stress then a childbirth class is something you should consider carefully.
Talk to your doctor about your anxiety in general first. Anxiety during pregnancy is common. But if it becomes overwhelming your healthcare provider can help you find treatment options to manage it during your pregnancy & postpartum period.
And bring up your concern with your healthcare provider about the possibility of a childbirth class exacerbating your anxiety before you make a decision about a class.
You Feel Like You Have All the Information You Need About Childbirth
Maybe you’re someone who feels like you have all the information you need about childbirth. If you’ve had a previous birth, or you’re a healthcare professional, or you have attended the births of friends or family members kids maybe you do know all you need to know. That’s for you to decide, probably with the help of your doctor.
If this is you, make sure you know the policies of your chosen birthing center, and talk to your doctor about any questions you do have about childbirth. Let them know you’ve decided not to take a class.
They might be able to point you towards some books or video resources that cover childbirth basics in case you need a quick refresher.
You Don’t Have Time for a Prenatal Class
Maybe all the childbirth classes in your area or full. Or you waited too long to sign up and you’re due before another birthing class will be offered. It happens.
In that case, consider an online prenatal class. You can take it on your own timeline. And get an understanding of the basics no matter how soon your baby is due.
How Do I Find the Right Childbirth Class for Me?
It is super common for new moms to take the prenatal class offered by their health care provider’s office or hospital without giving it too much thought one way or another.
Sometimes the birthing class cost is included in your cost for obstetrical care. Or discounted. Other times this class is the most convenient. Sometimes OB care offices funnel patients to the class taught by their office as if it is given it’s the best class available. And new moms may not know to look around and consider their choices.
So, the first thing to know is that there are choices. And not all childbirth classes are equal in quality or information.
So, before you sign up for the class at your OB/GYN office or the hospital where you plan to deliver, it’s a good idea to gather information and ask some questions.
First, consider whether you’re looking for a general overview of the labor, delivery, and childbirth process. Or whether you’re looking for help achieving a specific type of birth.
What Questions to Ask Before You Sign Up for a Childbirth Class
For any class, find out whether the instructor is certified to teach prenatal classes. And what their philosophy and credentials are.
Then try to find out what exactly is taught in the class. Some classes have a much greater focus on unmedicated birth. Others spend lots of time on information regarding baby care and breastfeeding and maybe less time on topics like pain management or writing a birthing plan.
It can be useful to find out if your childbirth instructor emphasizes a particular type of birth. A particular pet peeve of mine is attending a childbirth class at a hospital that states it will teach you about different options for pain management but then treats every medicated option as if it is a moral failure on the part of the birthing mother. It’s not.
A class that claims to provide information about ALL your options for childbirth should provide that information without bias.
Ideally, your partner should also be included in any birthing classes. And there should be information for them and maybe even training on how to support you during your child’s birth.
If you’re looking for a small class, you may want to ask about the number of students in your chosen class.
Then you’ve got the practical stuff to consider like how often the class meets, how much it costs, is there accessible parking nearby and anything else that might impact your ability to attend a specific class.
More In-Depth Childbirth Education & Classes
For new moms seeking general information about labor and delivery, the birthing process and newborn care, a hospital class or general prenatal class taught online or through their pregnancy care provider’s office may be exactly what they need.
But if you’re looking for more in-depth information about coping skills for an unmedicated birth, the emotional journey of childbirth, or a more thorough review of all your childbirth options you will likely need to seek out a more specialized prenatal class.
It is worth noting that most of these classes emphasize unmedicated childbirth as the goal. If that is your goal, it is likely worth your time to seek out some additional information and resources for pain management.
As a side note, as someone who wanted an unmedicated birth and ended up with two c-sections instead, always keep in mind that a safe birth for mom and baby is really the only outcome that matters most.
If you want an unmedicated birth but end deciding an epidural or other pain management medication makes sense for you during your birth, it is not a failure. It’s making the right choice for you at the time. Every birth is different. And you have to make decisions based on your and your babies needs throughout your birth experience
Everyone’s birth plan evolves as they are actually giving birth. What you want to avoid is pressure to make decisions you don’t understand or that you don’t really want because you don’t understand your options.
This is where childbirth education can be so valuable. Empowering you with the knowledge to make informed decisions you can feel comfortable with throughout your pregnancy and birth.
Here is a quick review of some of the most popular prenatal classes emphasizing unmedicated birth.
The Bradley Method
The Bradley Method teaches the use of breathing techniques, relaxation, education, and partner support for moms wanting an unmedicated childbirth.
HypnoBirthing focuses on using intense relaxation to calm your fear and tune in to your body’s natural instincts to achieve a calm, relaxed, even happy childbirth.
There is a book on HypnoBirthing if you are interested in the method but not ready to commit to a class. However, I will tell you from personal experience reading the book (not taking the class) if you are serious about using this method for your child’s birth you will need to take a class from a trained instructor to truly understand the techniques.
Learn more about HypnoBirthing here. And find a qualified HypnoBirthing instructor here. There are also many options for online HypnoBirthing classes from free YouTube videos to paid programs on DVDs or online. And these can be great options if you can’t find a class near you. Or you need to learn on your own schedule. Do some research and find what works for you.
Lamaze for Expectant Parents
Lamaze childbirth classes promote childbirth that is healthy and natural. Their curriculum is designed to help women and their partners make informed decisions about childbirth.
Real Moms Talk About Child Birth Classes
For some moms, birthing classes are the key to having exactly the birth experience they want. For others, they feel like a complete waste of precious time and money. It’s important to remember that when it comes to prenatal classes, you have choices. The class offered by your hospital or doctor’s office is just one option. And sometimes exploring what’s out there can make all the difference in your experience.
And maybe your choice is not to take a childbirth class. For many moms, that is a perfectly reasonable choice.
To help decide whether a prenatal class is right for you (and what kind of class!) it’s a great idea to talk to other moms about their experiences.
Before writing this post I talked to a number of moms about their experiences with childbirth classes, both positive and negative. And I wanted to share their responses in their own words.
I asked a group of moms to talk about their experiences with birthing classes. And I asked these three questions:
- What was the biggest benefit of taking a childbirth class before giving birth (if any)?
- Any negatives to taking a birthing class?
- Based on your experience, would you encourage a friend about to give birth for the first time to take a class? Why or why not if you want to expand on your answer.
The excerpts you see in boxes throughout this post are their responses. (A few have been condensed for space without changing the meaning).
My Experience with a Childbirth Class
My own story is this. I attended the childbirth class offered by my hospital. It was an 8 hour class on a Saturday. My other option was a 6 week course offered by my OB’s office in the evenings. But my husband worked nights and I wanted him to attend with me.
The biggest benefit of the class was probably the video they requested us to watch online before the class. It was a video of a woman giving birth with someone narrating the details. If you’ve never seen a birth I think it’s useful to see one before you do it yourself.
The online video is one of the reasons I’m convinced an online prenatal class would be useful.
It was also useful for my husband to learn a bit more about childbirth. I was pretty knowledgable. I worked in an OB/GYN office for years in an admin role. But you learn stuff just being around it all day. And I was an avid watcher of TLC’s A Baby Story;)
I am also someone who reads all the things. I read an enormous amount of books on pregnancy, childbirth & baby care well before I took the class.
The negatives in the class were that the instructor was very obviously in favor of unmedicated birth. And that was presented as the most desirable option. I don’t think it IS the most desirable option for many moms. And the focus on unmedicated birth meant less time to talk about other forms of pain management. This was not advertised as a course on unmedicated birth so that was unexpected.
There was also the usual annoyances of being in a large class. With at least 20 people in the class, there will always be one person asking a million questions that only pertain to them, that kind of stuff.
The one thing I remember very clearly from the class was the instructor giving us cups of ice. Then telling us to hold the ice in our bare hands and breathe through the discomfort of holding ice for several minutes. Just an FYI, holding ice in your hand is in no way comparable to giving birth to your child.
The Value of Talking to Other Moms About Childbirth Class Options
My negative experience with a childbirth class left me with the feeling that a prenatal class isn’t really necessary for new moms. And I still think for some moms it might not be.
But talking to other moms who had experiences very different from mine was eye-opening. So many moms have positive experiences with their prenatal classes! And all moms deserve that. That’s why it’s so important to seek out a childbirth class that fits your unique needs.
Childbirth classes are something moms-to-be need to research carefully before they decide if a childbirth class is right for them (and which class).
Preparing for Your Baby’s Birth with a Prenatal Class
For some moms, birthing classes are the key to having exactly the birth experience they want. For others, they feel like a waste. It’s important to remember that when it comes to prenatal classes, you have choices. Do some research to find the class that best meets your needs. Whether that’s an online prenatal class you can take at home, a class offered by your hospital, OB office, or doula, or a specialized class in Hypnobirthing or Lamaze.
And ask other moms! One of your best resources for information about childbirth classes is hearing from moms who have taken them.
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