Are Childbirth Classes Necessary?
Updated: Aug 17
We are surrounded by information! Between Google, Pinterest, blogs, and other social media, it seems you have all the information you need to know about having a baby right there at your fingertips.
Maybe your friend, who had an unmedicated birth last year, has a ton of books you can borrow, and she can give you the scoop on what giving birth feels like.
Maybe you are planning to get an epidural as soon as you feel contractions, and you figure the nurses will tell you what you need to know.
Besides, you and your partner are both pretty busy. How are you going to find time to squeeze in a class?
Is it really necessary to take a childbirth class?
Well, no, it's not necessary--you are going to give birth whether you take a class or not! But there are advantages to preparing yourself before you give birth..
The most important reason to take a class with a live instructor is to prepare yourself for the realities of today's healthcare system. The vast majority of Labor & Delivery nurses are caring and passionate about their work, and they want to see you have an awesome birth. The reality is that Labor & Delivery can be an extremely busy place with a lot of big stuff happening. As much as the nurses like to sit down and explain everything you need to know and patiently answer all your questions, sometimes higher priorities pull them in different directions. Things would go more smoothly for everyone if you were prepared for the routine stuff ahead of time.
Some people may think that childbirth classes are only useful if you are planning an unmedicated ("natural") birth, but here's the truth: even if you are planning to accept pain medication "as soon as I can have it, please and thank you!" it is unlikely that your birth will be a pain-free experience. You may find that there is a lot more discomfort than you were expecting, and the anxiety and tension that often accompanies being in an unfamiliar situation will increase that discomfort. The comfort and coping techniques you learn in your childbirth class will be useful in a variety of circumstances in a hospital setting. Especially while you're waiting for and getting your epidural.
You also want to make sure your information is accurate and unbiased. A lot of the online information...well, you can't really be sure it's factual and based on good evidence or if it's based on someone's opinions. There's a lot of junk to sift through.
What kind of childbirth preparation is available?
A childbirth class series meets several times over regular intervals (for example, a two-hour class every week for 6 weeks.) You will find this kind of class offered by certified childbirth educators (such as Lamaze or Bradley), midwives, doulas, and some hospitals or birth centers.
A disadvantage of a series of childbirth classes is the time you will have to set aside time for the classes. For the introverts among us--you'll have to be around other people. But there are some advantages of signing up for a class series.
You will have time to absorb the materials. Each week, as you recap what you already learned before moving on to the new material, you absorb a little more and remember more.
Ideally, your class should be one where you are actively participating--asking questions, discussing, participating in learning activities, and practicing. Actively participating will help you retain the information.
For relaxation exercises and comfort techniques, we recommend practicing so that when the time comes, you and your partner will already know what to do. The first couple times you try the techniques, it may feel awkward! After you go home and practice, then come back the next week and do them again in front of your instructor, you'll begin to feel more confident, and they will become more natural to you. That's the idea.
As you are reflecting back on what you learned the previous week, you will probably have more questions. You can write them down and bring them to the next class for discussion.
In a class with other couples, you may hear questions you hadn't thought of, and these variety of questions usually open the door for some great discussions.
Seeing the same couples over the course of a few weeks may help you to make new friends!
A one-day class may be taught at a local hospital or birth center, by a childbirth educator, a midwife, or a doula. These classes are easier to fit into a busy schedule. A hospital class will usually include a tour of the hospital and information on that particular hospital's policies and routines, which can reduce stress when it's time to check in.
Some childbirth educators offer private classes in your own home. Private, in-home classes also offer a more relaxed, personal setting for those who would rather not participate in a class with other couples.
A disadvantage of a one-day class is that, although you'll get information, it likely will be a condensed version rather than comprehensive information.
You may retain less than you would learning the material over time. You may not have time to practice comfort techniques and may forget them when the time comes.
Online classes, such as Birth Boot Camp offer a variety of options to customize your experience and work at your own pace, making it very convenient for busy families.
Some people do very well learning from videos, and if you are motivated, this may be ideal for you.
The disadvantage is not having face-to-face, hands-on guidance, particularly with comfort techniques. Also, nobody is holding you accountable for attending, and there is a lot of material to get through...are you sure you'll complete it?
If you would like more information on childbirth class options, such as what sort of educators, classes, or in-home options are available in your area, feel free to email orcall/text me.