Got a baby on the way? You probably have a gazillion questions about the big day – especially if you are a first-time mom. While nothing can recreate the actual experience of bringing a child into this world, childbirth education classes are a great way to ready yourself for Labor Day. There are several options to choose from, with costs ranging from free to upwards of $1,000, and while the ultimate goal of all courses is to help expectant parents make their birthing experience as positive as possible, each has its own method and philosophy.
To help you in your search, we’ve outlined 6 of the most common settings that offer childbirth education classes.
1. A Birthing Center offers prenatal care and labor and delivery services. Some birth centers are freestanding, while others can be part of a hospital. Those that offer classes center their modules around community, encourage partners to attend, and sometimes include a tour of the facility. Classes that take place at a birthing center tend to be a good fit for the holistic and natural-birth enthusiasts, although it can suit those who want to attempt a natural birth but would still like to have easy access to medical aid. If you are planning on a cesarean birth, a vaginal birth after cesarean or a birth with an epidural, it’s best to thoroughly read over the class curriculum and make sure that the birth center you are considering still fits your birth plan.
2.Hospital run classes prepare expectant parents who want or require medical assistance during the birthing process. They provide general information on labor and delivery and help you understand the birthing experience that you can expect at that particular hospital. Expectant parents choosing a hospital class will usually take it at the hospital associated with their practitioner. Because these classes are affiliated with a specific hospital, they may endorse medical interventions and favor medicated vaginal birth and cesarean sections over natural deliveries. These classes tend to have more attendees than in other settings in order to fit in all parents scheduled to deliver at that hospital.
3.Yoga Studios usually recruit outside educators to lead their birthing classes and they’re often holistically focused. Class description vary widely so it is best to reach out before committing to a specific location. The educators there are usually holistic advocates and help partners find their role in the birthing process. Many of them also take a more innovative stance and teach about birthing tools like birthing balls or incorporate tenets of yoga.
4.Doulas & Midwives like to base their courses on your birth plan. Classes can take place in your home, their home, a rented place, yoga studio or a birthing center. In some cases, several doulas might even team up to create a community center. The facilitators who run these classes are certified in childbirth education and can go over any type of births – be it natural, cesarean or vaginal after cesarean. Doulas and midwives often champion non-medicated natural births, although they are qualified to incorporate information on medically-assisted labor and delivery – and more than willing if it is the birthing experience you desire. They will give you information on alternative techniques to cope with pain, coach you on how to use birthing balls and help birth partners find their place. These classes can be in group (usually smaller than in hospitals and birthing centers) or one on one with the instructor – all in all, much more personal and intimate.
5. Weekend Retreats for expectant couples fuse relaxation, romance and childbirth education and is becoming a new trend in babymooning. They include prenatal yoga classes, healthy meals and snacks, optional massages, and childbirth classes. The main goal of weekend retreats is to provide you with all the tools you need to get the childbirth experience that you want – to train your body and your mind for childbirth. Classes go over stages of labor, the different positions for labor and birth, techniques to cope with pain, medications and medical interventions, and the role of birth partners (among other things).
6.Baby Store: It isn’t just about shopping anymore: many local baby stores now hold childbirth and childcare education classes to provide as much guidance as possible to new parents and parents-to-be. Shop-led courses are a fun, interactive way to educate yourself about labor and delivery while allowing you to meet fellow expectant parents in your neighborhood. Baby stores usually recruit childbirth certified educators and doulas for their courses. Baby store educators can vary in philosophy, and will likely reflect the ethos of the baby store. If the store tends towards more natural parenting, the instructor might favor that approach. If the store appeals to a more mainstream consumer, the class might be more middle-of-the-road.
Remember that this is just a guide to help you get started. Do your own research, call the facilities and educators you are considering and make sure that their birthing philosophy fit yours. One more thing to consider is does the childbirth class incorporate inclusive images, language and examples for your race, ethnicity, family structure and culture. You will gain more from the experience if the instructors recognize and teach to the specific challenges that parents of color or non heteronormative parents face.
Kayla Bitten is a certified Doula and Childbirth educator and a student midwife. She is passionate about improving access and inclusion for birthing folks in the BIPOC community. She offers Doula services, education and support for birth workers and leads childbirth classes through The Southern Midwife. Upcoming classes include Birth in Color, an evidence-based childbirth education course for expecting parents of color and Birth How You Want, for any expecting parent.