Wondering if you should take a birth class? Unless you’ve given birth before, you have no idea what it’s going to be like. Attending a birth class will help you and your partner prepare for labor and birth so that you can have the best experience possible.
There are many different kinds of birth classes available, from the birth class offered at your hospital to community-based birth classes with a specific focus such as hypnobirthing, Lamaze, Bradley, and more.
The class you choose will depend on the kind of birth experience you want to have. For example, if you’d like to have a natural birth, you’ll want to find a class that includes instruction on how to cope with contractions without an epidural. If an induction, c-section or epidural is likely in your future, you’ll want to be sure to attend the birth class at your hospital.
No matter which kind of birth class you take, they will likely consist of a combination of direct instruction, exercises, and videos. When shopping around for a birth class, make sure that they offer instruction in the following areas:
Progression of Labor & Birth
From the first contractions through the birth of your baby, your instructor should detail the stages of labor and what to expect from each one. She should also talk about ways to stimulate contractions in the event that labor slows down. In addition, your instructor should make sure that you know at what stage you should go to the hospital or birth center.
Possible Birth Interventions & Complications
Even if you are planning a natural birth, things may not go as planned. It’s important for you to know about different interventions before you go into labor. This will not only help you to make wise choices, but also help you to feel calmer during your labor and birth. Possible interventions include:
- Rupturing the membrane
- Internal fetal monitoring
- Medicine for pain
- Vacuum extraction
- Cesarean section
Strategies for Coping with Birth Pain
Your birth class should cover at least a few options for how to cope with labor pain. Some things that might be covered in class are:
- Breathing in specific ways
- Concentrating on an image (visualization)
- Changing labor and birth positions
- Using water in a shower or tub
Even if you’re planning to have an epidural, you’ll most likely have to weather some contractions before you are far enough along for the doctor to administer it, so learning pain management techniques is a good idea no matter what!
Your Partner’s Role During Labor & Birth
Your partner is an important part of your labor and birth team. Of course he’s there for moral support, but there are many other things he can do to help. Your instructor can help your partner learn what kinds of things would be most helpful for him to do during your birth—and what kinds of things he should NOT do!
Breastfeeding & Newborn Care
Your birth class instructor should discuss the importance of breastfeeding and give some instruction about how to get started. She should also tell you what types of tests, immunizations, and other care your baby will receive while in the hospital.
No matter what kind of birth class you choose, make sure that your childbirth instructor is knowledgeable and certified and that she creates a warm and welcoming environment.
Don’t be shy! If you have questions, ask them. Most likely, other people in the class are wondering the same thing and will be glad that you asked.
In addition to helping you understand the stages of labor, pain relief during labor, postpartum care, hospital practices, and childbirth recovery, there’s another great benefit to taking a birth class—it’s a great place to make friends.