By Guest Blogger Cara Terreri, Administrator for Lamaze International’s Giving Birth with Confidence Blog
Visit any online pregnancy/expecting board and you’ll find a topic thread on “Should I take a childbirth class?” It’s a question that almost every first-time pregnant woman encounters during her pregnancy. And on the boards, you’ll find answers that range from “Yes, it helped me so much!” to “Waste of time; not worth it.” Why the disparity in responses? As it turns out, there are differences in the type of childbirth education classes, and they can drastically affect a woman and her partner’s experience. Despite my affiliation with Lamaze, this is not just another article disguised as an advertisement. Below, I share valuable tips for choosing the right childbirth class for you and how good classes have positively impacted other women.
Plan in advance. Since your due date is an estimate – not a deadline – don’t wait until the last minute to schedule or take your childbirth class. Research childbirth classes in your area early and decide before your third trimester which class you want to take – and book it. Many women find it helpful to take a class that finishes three or four weeks before their due date.
Research your options. Visit the websites of the classes you find in your area. Find out more about their approach, if they are certified, and what they cover in class. Consider how their philosophy aligns with yours or perhaps, if their ideas are different but comforting and enlightening. A quality childbirth class should cover the following:
- The normal process of labor and birth, and health care practices that support it
- Changes during late pregnancy and the stages of labor
- A wide variety of coping strategies for managing pain in labor
- The importance of labor support
- Movement and positioning during labor and birth
- Medical interventions and their indications, risks and alternatives
- How to communicate with your health care provider
- Developing a birth plan
- Breastfeeding and newborn care
Beware of some hospital birth classes. Not all childbirth classes are created equally. Many large hospitals offer childbirth classes. Some of these classes are taught by Lamaze-certified educators or other similar certifying childbirth education organizations; some are not. In either case, be wary of the childbirth educator that teaches only hospital birth policies and protocol. A good instructor is an advocate who shares all of the information you need to make truly informed decisions.
Talk to the instructor before you sign up. After you’ve researched a few classes, call the instructors and talk with them over the phone to get a feel for their personality and answer some questions about their classes. Listen to see if she offers a range of coping strategies for labor and focuses on how to communicate with your care provider. It’s essential that you find an instructor who presents up-to-date, evidence-based information. Steer clear of the educator who seems to present only the hospital rules.
What do real moms have to say about their childbirth class experience? Lisa, a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in Calgary, Canada, talks about her first experience with a childbirth class as “life-changing.” She said:
Childbirth class with Nichola changed me from an educated woman to a confident, expectant mother. Calm and collected, Nichola guided us through the overwhelming amount of information in a way that made sense. Each individual came to their own, different conclusion based on the same information. I was able to choose my own birth adventure, thanks in part to the knowledge and support of a wonderful childbirth educator.
Some moms only realize the value of their childbirth classes after their birth, like Laura, who said:
They had talked about the cascade of interventions, how one can lead to another. I steered clear of them all. I started to feel scared and panicky. They had talked about transition, that it is normal and means you are close to the end. I remembered and relaxed, continuing my rhythm and ritual. Before I knew it, my body was pushing.
Another mom, Miriam, talks about how her classes taught her how to prepare and practice for birth:
…there was no other explanation for the calm end to my birthing time and my [eventual] ability to relax other than the fact that I’d practiced remaining collected and confident in my body’s ability to birth all along
For more information, check out the tip sheet from Lamaze that talks further about how to choose a childbirth class.
About the Author
Cara Terreri began working with Lamaze two years before she became a mother. Three kids later (and a whole lot more work for Lamaze), she’s the Site Administrator for Giving Birth with Confidence, the Lamaze blog for and by women and expectant families. Cara has a strong passion for the awesome power and beauty in pregnancy and birth, and for helping women to discover their own power and ability through birth. Learn more at www.givingbirthwithconfidence.org.