Whether you're a first-time mommy or this is your third baby, childbirth classes can help you prepare for labor, delivery and what happens next. There are an array of options that fall under the "childbirth class" umbrella. These range from basic overviews at your local hospital to programs based upon specific methods for giving birth. Choosing the childbirth class that's right for you means finding one in which the philosophy of the educator or class fits your needs and beliefs.
The Right Educator
The International Childbirth Education Association recommends asking about the educator's qualifications to teach the class or the method. All childbirth educators should have professional-level training, such as a nursing degree or certification from an organization, such as the ICEA. Certification or licensure isn't mandatory to teach a childbirth class, however. For example, an obstetrics nurse or nurse midwife both carry professional licenses, but won't necessarily have a childbirth educator credential. If you want to take a specialized class though, having an educator credentialed in that method helps ensure you are getting instruction that specifically falls in line with that technique.
Group prepared childbirth classes typically cover the changes that your body will go through as your pregnancy progresses, the stages of labor, what will happen during delivery, and techniques and exercises to help you better handle the birthing process. Other topics that a childbirth class may cover include fetal development, warning signs of complications, writing a birth plan, pain relief options and your partner's role during delivery, according to the website KidsHealth. A prepared childbirth class may be a one-day workshop at your hospital or birthing center, or may run through several weekly sessions. These kind of basic classes are perfect for women who don't have a strong preference for a particular method of childbirth, and who don't mind practicing techniques in the presence of other pregnant women and their partners.
A method-based program provides specific advice and support that focuses on one particular birthing philosophy. Two of the most well-known childbirth methods in the U.S. are the Bradley method and the Lamaze technique, according to KidsHealth. Both methods focus on natural birthing techniques such as relaxation, conscious breathing and partner-led support. Lamaze might be right for you if you want to avoid medical intervention, though the class will present all your options in the event you change your mind. The Bradley method is husband-coached, and well-suited for women who view pain as a natural part of childbirth. Women using this method typically forgo pain medication during their deliveries.
A Holistic Approach
Hypnobirthing and Birthing From Within are two other natural methods that reflect current trends in childbirth. Hypnobirthing teaches moms to relax into an almost daydream-like state, releasing endorphins instead of stress hormones. The idea is to calm the fear you might feel about giving birth. If you wish to give birth without pain meds, but you are particularly worried about delivery, this might be a good fit for you. The Birthing From Within method views delivery as a rite of passage and teaches parents how to use self-hypnosis and visualization to ease the birth process. Prior to delivery, women paint, journal and meditate as a means of facing and managing their anxieties. If you are seeking a holistic approach to childbirth, this might be the class for you.
Private, Group, Online
Not every class format or structure is the right fit for every parent. If you're looking for a more personalized experience, have a busy schedule or don't like being in groups, a private class is an option. If you like the idea of meeting other parents, the more social type of group class may be for you. Parents who can't get to the actual class site can still participate in an educational program. Some hospitals and health-care providers offer interactive online classes for moms who either can't fit the child birth class into their schedules or don't live close enough to make going to the course feasible. These classes use web-based videos and activities to educate mommies-to-be about pregnancy and labor.