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What To Look for In a Birth Class

If you’re newly pregnant, you have probably discovered the first truth of budding parenthood: a complete overload of choices. The abundance of options is wonderful in one way- you can find what it is you personally need. It can be, however, overwhelming to the point of exhaustion.

This is where a birth class can come in very handy.

Heading towards childbirth with blinders on and a, “let’s just see what happens,” attitude can feel like a load off initially, but it doesn’t often yield desirable results. You’ll certainly get something, but it may turn out to be not anywhere near what you wanted.

So how do you choose a birth class that works for you and do so without paralyzing anxiety? Here are a few tips that can help you choose the childbirth education option you need.

It’s important to recognize that just as your wedding planning can be made less stressful and smoother with the help of an experienced and professional wedding planner who knows the good caterers, knows when your space has the most beautiful blooming flowers and knows how to arrange the day, your birth can benefit from the guidance of just such a “planner” for your birth. We call them childbirth educators, but in a lot of ways they simply serve as an experienced guide for your childbirth journey.

birth class, childbirth education, birth boot campDeciding to take a birth class is the first step in a better birth experience.

Now, think about what kind of birth you want.

Epidural? Hospital? Home? Birth Center? Children present? Partner helpful? Midwife? Doctor?

Honestly, if you haven’t thought much about it, you may not be totally sure WHAT you want. That’s OK too. Your childbirth educator can help you learn the pros and cons of every option so that you can make an informed decision.

Once you have some idea what you want, think about what classes will meet that need.

Is this your first baby? 6th?! Are you nervous or serene? Would you feel more comfortable with more information? Is your partner excited to learn? Are you 20 weeks along or 35? Do both you and your partner have demanding careers or crazy schedules? Realistically, how much time do you have to commit to this endeavor called childbirth education?

(As an aside, we really think everyone should set aside some time to learn about birth! You won’t regret it, even if it’s a bit of a difficulty or feels like a big investment on the front end. This is one that pays off. Like brushing your teeth.)

Now that you’ve thought about your needs, your time, and your desires, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and choose a class!

Comprehensive Birth Class

Think of the comprehensive birth class that lasts 10 sessions as ordering the big entrée at your favorite Mexican restaurant. It comes with fresh chips, salsa, a side of rice AND beans, a taco, a burrito, and a chili relleno. It truly has everything that you want. It’s yummy. It’s filling. And it’s probably the best bang for your buck.

The comprehensive birth class includes:

  • Relaxation
  • Comfort techniques
  • Knowledge about typical hospital procedures and tests
  • Hands-on techniques for the partner
  • Building a birth team
  • Writing a birth plan
  • A physical understanding of what is actually happening in your body.
  • Emotional knowledge about the role your mind and feelings play in the birth.
  • Nutrition and exercise info just for pregnancy
  • Newborn procedures
  • Baby care
  • Breastfeeding basics

Whew! That’s a long list. We call it comprehensive for a reason!

This class is right for you if:

  • You didn’t even know what you wanted from your birth before you started choosing a class.
  • This is your first baby or your partner’s first baby.
  • You are wanting to be well prepared for an unmedicated birth.
  • You are nervous and feel more relaxed when you are armed with solid information.
  • You crave community building with your instructor and fellow classmates, which will be facilitated by the longer class format.
  • You don’t want to have to shop around, a-la-carte style for information regarding pregnancy, birth, and baby. You want everything in one place.
  • You have sufficient time to finish a class that is 10 sessions long. (Note that our online classes and some instructors may work on a shorter deadline.)

A comprehensive class is a fabulous option, and one we strongly encourage because so often we don’t know what we don’t know when we start preparing for childbirth. This class covers enough information that, by the end, you will be filled with the info you need so you can make the choices that empower YOU.

Some other birth classes work to specifically prepare you for your birth based on where you are having your baby. Let’s check these out.

hospital birth class

Hospital Birth Class

Another option is the 6-session hospital birth class. This is considerably shorter than the 10-week comprehensive class, but still contains a decent amount of information. It is geared towards preparing couples who know they will be birthing in the hospital. This class may be right for you if:

  • You have a fabulous hospital and care provider already chosen.
  • You do not have your heart set on an unmedicated birth but are also considering pharmacological pain relief options.
  • You want to be well prepared for common tests and procedures common in the hospital setting.
  • You desire a shorter class option due to scheduling or due date needs.
  • You want to learn some hands-on labor coping techniques.
  • You would like to be familiar with the physical and emotional process of labor and birth.
  • You already have a strong understanding of newborns, breastfeeding, and newborn care.
  • You are confident in your exercise and nutrition knowledge.

The hospital birth class option is a fabulous one for many couples. It still covers a little relaxation and comfort measure options, but with less depth, and it works well for couples who already know a lot about caring for their baby.

out of hospital birth class

Home & Birth Center Birth Class

Another option is the home & birth center birth class. It’s shorter, at five weeks long, and is geared towards those couples who are already experiencing hands-on care from a midwife as they plan their home or birth center birth.

This class may work for you if:

  • You are birthing at home or at a birth center.
  • You have already experienced a satisfying natural birth.
  • Your midwife spends considerable time chatting with you about proper pregnancy nutrition.
  • You have a familiarity with the birth process.
  • You are confident in your ability to comfort and nurse your baby.
  • You are limited on time and cannot commit to the 10-week class.
  • You already have a strong social network of support and like-minded peers.

Some midwives spend long visits with their clients where they discuss education, options, and staying low risk with their clients. This class focuses on the process of birth, hands-on techniques for the partner, ways to avoid a transfer if possible, and more. It also has a solid foundation and understanding of what midwifery care often includes. It’s a fabulous option for the informed out-of-hospital birther.

We talk a lot about options and knowledge in childbirth, but those options don’t begin in the birthing room. They begin long before when you are deciding how you want your birth to proceed. Childbirth education is so key to an empowering birth experience!

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