Childbirth classes help expecting moms understand what to expect during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and can help them prepare for a healthy baby. While the classes may vary in their approach, most aim to empower moms with knowledge that will allow them to make informed choices about how they want their birth to unfold.
The classes are typically offered by nurses, nurse-midwives or other certified professionals. Some classes focus on a particular birth delivery technique while others give an overview of various options and tips for breastfeeding and baby care. Classes may be short (such as a condensed weekend class) or longer, offered one night a week for several weeks.
Many hospitals offer a Lamaze class that covers some basic information about expected hospital routines and medical approaches to pain control (such as epidural analgesics, narcotic analgesics or nitrous oxide). However, they often provide little or no instruction about other methods of coping with labor, such as breathing techniques, massage, music, acupuncture and hypnosis. This can leave women feeling dependent on their hospital or physician for guidance, and afraid to seek out other resources that might help them through the process.
Other hospitals may offer a Bradley Method class that includes hypnosis and relaxation techniques, along with the use of certain labor positions and tools. Unlike Lamaze, the Bradley Method focuses on deep abdominal breathing and relaxation for the whole family, including the partner. Some families prefer this style because they believe that it is a more natural way of handling the physical and emotional demands of labor and delivery.
Even with the best preparation, there is always a chance that your birth will not go as planned. That’s why it’s important to take the time to research and choose a class that will prepare you for the type of birth experience you hope for, while also providing a range of options should your plan change or something unexpected arise during labor and delivery.
Talk to friends with babies or young children and ask what types of classes they took. Personal recommendations can be extremely helpful, especially if they align with your vision of an ideal birth experience.
You can find many different childbirth classes available, both in-person and online. If you are planning on attending a class in person, consider the location and the maximum class size. Some classes are held inside of the hospital while others are taught in alternative, often warmer settings. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the in-person classes relocated to online courses, and some are free or nearly free.