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How to Choose a Childbirth Class

By Jamie Vincent, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM

How to Choose a Childbirth Class

Childbirth classes are essential when preparing for baby—explore your options with your partner to decide which type of class is right for you.

The months leading up to the birth of your baby are filled with excitement and many questions. You might be wondering, “How do I prepare for birth? What type of birth experience do I want? What role will my partner play?” A childbirth class will help answer your questions.

What are childbirth classes?

Childbirth classes are as varied as the childbearing families who attend them—some are online, some are an extension of group prenatal care and many are the more commonly known series of weekly in-person classes led by a childbirth instructor who is trained in a particular technique, such as Lamaze, The Bradley Method or HypnoBirthing, to name a few. Some facilities will even jam all of the sessions into one super Saturday or weekend to help you prepare for birth.

In class, you and your partner or support person (yes, you should bring the person who will support you during your birth to class!) you’ll learn how labor begins and progresses, practice coping techniques for managing labor pain, and learn why it’s important to be upright and to change positions frequently throughout labor.  Coping and comfort techniques include massage, relaxation and breathing techniques and positioning for comfort during labor and birth. Most importantly, in childbirth class, you’ll learn that intuitively as a woman your body was designed to birth and that you can trust your instincts to guide you.

What method is best for me?

You’ll want to consider the type of birth experience you want to have when deciding on a class that fits your needs. Regardless of the preparation style you choose, the most important thing is practicing what you’ve learned regularly with your partner as you prepare for birth. Birthing is intense—it’s a time to rely on what you already know and are comfortable with, which is why practice is so important.

Lamaze’s® Six Healthy Birth Practices are the foundation of its classes—promoting labor and birth practices based in research, including letting labor start on its own; standing, walking around and moving in labor; bringing a friend or loved one for support, avoiding non-medically needed interventions including birthing on your back; following your body’s own urges to push and beginning breastfeeding at birth. Lamaze also encourages the support of doulas for you and your partner. http://www.lamaze.org

The Bradley Method® revolves around “husband-coached natural childbirth,” or coach-supported labor and birth and a healthy mom and baby. The 12-week series teaches natural childbirth and birth as a natural process. The core belief with the Bradley Method is that most women with proper education, preparation, and the help of a loving and supportive coach can give birth naturally. http://bradleybirth.com

HypnoBirthing® focuses on addressing and reducing the fear associated with the pain of childbirth and creating a calm, trance-like state, which allows the muscles to relax and the woman to experience a calm and gentle birth. https://us.hypnobirthing.com

What if I don’t want to or can’t attend classes; what options do I have? Lamaze and others offer online education, and many birthing facilities offer childbirth intensive classes on a single day or weekend.

I plan on having an epidural so do I really need childbirth classes? Yes, even if you’re planning on using an epidural or other pain medication, you should know epidurals aren’t always effective or you may find you’ve arrived at your chosen birth place too far along for an epidural. Through class you’ll learn about the risks and benefits of pain medication and pain management, and how to cope with labor pain regardless of whether you use pain medication.

How do I find a class? Start by discussing  childbirth education options with your healthcare provider to find reputable classes in your local community or where you plan to birth. Friends or family members may be able to provide useful feedback on courses they have taken.  Look for courses taught by certified instructors.

How do I know an instructor is reputable? Lamaze® instructors certified by Lamaze® International will use the title Lamaze® Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE). The American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth certifies instructors in the Bradley Method®, and HypnoBirthing ® International certifies instructors who have completed and maintain their HypnoBirthing® Practitioner certification.

International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) also certifies childbirth educators with a focus on family-centered maternity care. If you choose to work with a doula for labor support, look for a DONA™ International-certified doula or one certified by ICEA.

Find a childbirth class in your area

Lamaze | lamaze.org

Bradley Method | bradleybirth.com

HypnoBirthing | us.hypnobirthing.com/parents

Find a midwife or doula

American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) | midwife.org/find-a-midwife

Doulas of North America (DONA) | dona.org/find-a-doula

Jamie Vincent, MSN, RNC-OB, C-EFM, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.


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