For first-time parents-to-be, the unknown aspects of how to prepare and what to expect regarding childbirth can be a significant source of anxiety. It’s easy to find yourself lost down the rabbit hole of information and overcome by irrelevant details on the internet –thankfully, that is where childbirth education classes come in handy. Having a child-birthing professional at your disposal, ready to answer your questions and quell your fears, can be a great source of peace during an otherwise anxious time.
To help you conclude whether or not a birthing class is something you might benefit from, we’ve rounded up some information on childbirth education courses and how they can help you prepare for delivery day.
What Are Birthing Classes?
There is a wide array of antenatal classes available. Depending on what you’re seeking information on –whether it’s general knowledge or specific to a certain birthing technique– there’s a good chance there's a class for that. Many women become childbirth educators because of their personal experiences with childbirth. These instructors strive to educate expectant parents on the process of birth and what to expect when bringing a new baby into their lives. Childbirth education classes can be taught by high school graduates over the age of 18 who have undergone childbirth education certification training, or (more commonly) by medical professionals like doctors, nurses, doulas, or midwives.
Benefits of Childbirth Education Classes
There are many benefits to preparing for delivery through a birthing class, here are our top 5 reasons for recommending them:
- Decreased rate of C-Section- Birthing classes can teach you ways to identify signs of active labor, educate you on when to leave for the hospital, and show you ways to help progress labor naturally. Failure to progress is the number 1 reason for unplanned cesarean deliveries in first-time mothers.
- Streamlines pertinent information- We mentioned information overload earlier in this article. Although the internet is a great source of helpful information, that information can also lead to a lot of unnecessary anxiety. Speaking with a labor and delivery professional can help to filter out irrelevant or outdated information so you don’t feel so overwhelmed.
- Hands-on practice- This is mutually beneficial for you and your partner. Practicing breathing and relaxation techniques together helps everyone to feel more confident and relaxed on delivery day.
- Socializing with other soon-to-be-parents- Pregnancy can feel somewhat alienating. Sharing your concerns and joys with other pregnant people can provide a sense of community and a bonding experience.
- Improved labor and delivery tour- If you take an antenatal class through the hospital you plan to deliver at, oftentimes they provide a more detailed explanation of your upcoming hospitalization and birthing experience, along with an in-depth tour of the labor and delivery facilities.
Types Of Birthing Classes
Hospitals, private instructors, health departments, and some OB/GYN practitioners offer birthing education courses. Most are organized as in-person instruction over several weeks, but as a result of Covid-19, many courses are available virtually as well. While some classes are free, others are paid. The types of birthing classes include:
- The Lamaze Technique- Teaches breathing and relaxation techniques as well as other labor and delivery preparation skills. They also cover immediate postpartum care, breastfeeding tips, and healthy lifestyle choices.
- The Bradley Method- Covers relaxation techniques for pain management, postpartum care, labor rehearsals, and how to avoid a cesarean section. This class also focuses on the importance of nutritional health and exercise.
- Alexander Technique- Centered around improving balance, flexibility, and mobility to improve comfort during pregnancy. This course also teaches proper pushing and positioning techniques to focus your energy where it’s needed most during delivery.
- HypnoBirthing- Otherwise known as the Mongan method, is a relaxed natural childbirth technique that teaches self-hypnosis to reduce pain, anxiety, and fear while you progress through delivery. Teachers focus not only on delivery, but on parenting, and the status of your developing baby throughout pregnancy as well.
When To Take a Class
Many courses are broken down into weekly sessions, 30 mins to 1 hour in length, over 12 weeks. With that timeline in mind, you’ll want to begin taking your child-birthing course at the end of your second trimester or the start of your third. Whichever course (or courses) you decide to take, it’s advised you sign up early as they tend to fill up quickly.
Other Ways to Prepare for Childbirth
Preparing for childbirth shouldn’t be limited to just information and birthing techniques. There’s fun to be had as well as physical work to be done (known as nesting). Some other ways to help prepare for the arrival of your new baby are:
- Create a birthing plan with your partner- If one thing is certain, it’s that deliveries don’t always go to plan. However, outlining your expectations and wishes for your labor and delivery is helpful for your practitioner, the nurses, and your partner.
- Take a Labor Prep Supplement- Prepare your body for labor through our Labor Prep Tea with Red Raspberry Leaf, Stinging Nettle, Oatstraw, and Chamomile to support shorter labor, more effective contractions, uterine toning, and cramping relief after delivery.
- Pack your hospital bag- Pack for you and your baby. Plan for a 2-3 night stay with lots of comfy clothes, nursing-friendly bras and tops, toiletries, your nursing pillow, and any other necessities.
- Install car seat(s)- Anytime between 35-37 weeks is an ideal time to install your infant (or convertible) car seat. If you go into labor before 35 weeks, there’s a good chance your baby will need to spend some time in the NICU, providing you with some additional time to install it before your little one is cleared to come home.
- Plan your birth announcement- Many expectant parents look forward to sharing the birth of their baby with friends and family. If you need to order anything special like personalized baby blankets, letter boards, etc. order those items early enough to pack them in your hospital bag.
- Stock up on necessities- Diapers and wipes, postpartum supplies, spit-up rags, pumping accessories, anything that will keep you from making an emergency run to the store is what you’ll want to have in excess.
- Baby-proof- Install corner guards, outlet covers, monitors, and baby gates. If you have a pool, now is the time to install or secure your pool fence. Drowning is the number one cause of death for children under age 4 in the United States.
- Find your pediatrician- Ask friends and family for recommendations in your area, check reviews, or schedule a parent consultation (if offered) with a pediatrician. You’ll need to have one chosen before you leave the hospital with your newborn.
Although preparing for labor and delivery can feel overwhelming, attending a child birthing class can help to streamline the unnecessary and alleviate concerns. If you’re interested in reading more we recommend:
Planning for Delivery Day: What to Prepare for Before Labor
Labor Positions: Designing Your Delivery