Between blogs, books, podcasts, and Youtube videos, do you as an expecting parent really need to spend time — and money — taking a local birthing class? As a Childbirth Educator, I’ve encountered numerous couples who have “read all the things” and “watched all the things,” but when they finally take a class, they gain so much more than they ever expected. Here are three reasons why this rite of parenthood passage shouldn’t be skipped and how to find out which type may work best for you.
Local Touch. The basic information of the stages of labor, pain-coping techniques, and interventions can be found all over the web and in books, but how do you make it all relevant to your specific situation? A local childbirth educator will be savvy on which hospitals have tubs, which offer nitrous oxide, and even how to navigate an overflowing urban Labor & Delivery triage. They fill in the unknowns of the labor process, but they also help to align your expectations with your particular birth place and provider. The goal is to give you the tools to become an active participant with your birth team.
New Community. The main goal of a birth class may be knowledge of the birth process, but another perk is the discovery of other families that will be having a baby at the same time as you. Nothing bonds people like shared experience, so it’s quite common to meet another parent that you might create a nanny share with, have early “playdates” with, or who you can text in the middle of the night because you know they aren’t sleeping either.
Partner Connection. From choosing a pediatrician, comparing 100 different strollers, creating a registry, decorating a nursery, and working a full-time job, the months preparing for baby are a whirlwind. Almost all childbirth classes are designed for both a pregnant person and their partner, so class is an amazing opportunity to slow down, connect with your partner about your new arrival, your birth options, and how your partner can best support and advocate for you.
So, which class is right for you?
Hospital Childbirth Class. A birth class at the hospital you’re delivering at is a natural first stop for most for its convenience and familiarity, but these classes tend to have limitations. They’re often crowded and taught by staff that isn’t encouraged to share all of your options or recent evidence-based findings in an effort to keep things streamlined for larger groups.
Independent Childbirth Class. One of the things I love about teaching in my own cozy space is that I attract a diverse set of families with a range of birth places. Some attendees birth in big city hospitals, others in smaller hospitals, and other in birth centers or at home. Families get to learn so much about various options from each other.
Branded Childbirth Class. I have been trained by Lamaze International and Childbirth Education Association of Metropolitan NY (CEAMNY), both of which celebrate that there is no “one right way” to give birth. For example, a medicated birth is honored just as much as a non-medicated birth is. Instead, they focus on evidence-based techniques, shared decision making, informed consent/refusal, and creating the birth experience that works best for you. Birthing Within treats birth as a profound rite of passage, focusing on experiencing it as a journey. The Bradley Method, a 12-week series, is “husband coached” and emphasizes a natural, unmedicated birth. Hypnobirthing, a method intended to foster a peaceful birth experience, focuses on reducing fear, staying calm, and breathing through labor.
There really are so many options out there for everyone. Before signing up for any of these classes, consult with like-minded friends who have given birth recently. Reach out to potential instructors about class size, room setup (comfy couches or back jacks on the floor?), and if they are open to diversity and different family structures. The most important thing is that you go in with an open mind, ready to learn all you can about how to make your own birth experience as empowering and joyful as it can be.