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Back to school: Childbirth classes every new mom should take

Now that you're further along in your pregnancy, it might be time to head back to school. No, not college or high school. We're talking childbirth classes. 

Taking childbirth classes teaches you what to expect from labor and delivery, which may help ease some anxieties about giving birth. 

But there are many other reasons childbirth classes are helpful for moms-to-be. We'll run through those benefits. Plus, we'll tell you about the various birthing methods practiced today. 

The benefits of childbirth classes

Along with preparing you for labor and delivery, childbirth classes can: 

  • Help build your confidence in your body's ability to give birth.
  • Familiarize your support person with labor, so he or she knows how to help.
  • Educate you about pain-relief options. 
  • Connect you with other parents-to-be who can support you too. 

Many classes also include a tour of your birthing facility. During the tour, you can talk to the medical staff and get a better idea of what the hospital's processes are. 

Your childbirth class might also help you make a birth plan—that's a written outline of how you'd like to experience your labor and delivery. 

And even if you're a pregnancy veteran, you might still benefit from a refresher course. This is especially true if there's been years between your pregnancies.

The different types of classes out there 

Many different birthing methods are offered today. Some classes focus strictly on one birthing method. But many childbirth-education classes include ideas from different methods. Here are some common options available: 

The Lamaze method. This gives women simple coping strategies for childbirth. The classes teach women and their partners how to:

  • Focus their breathing.
  • Position the body for labor and delivery.
  • Use massage to ease pain.

You also receive information about medical procedures and breastfeeding.

The Bradley method. This emphasizes natural childbirth without the use of medication. It also counsels women on ways to avoid C-sections. It's usually a 12-week course, with a focus on: 

  • Nutrition.
  • Exercise.
  • Natural breathing and other relaxation techniques.

Hypnobirthing. This method uses relaxation and self-hypnosis to help women harness the body's natural painkilling chemicals for a calm birth experience. 

Questions to ask 

Before you sign up for a class, make sure it matches up with your comfort level and the material you want to learn. Here are some great questions to ask:

  • What is the instructor's philosophy about labor and birth?
  • Will the class offer information to women who do and do not want medication?
  • What is the cost of the class? 
  • How often does it meet?
  • What topics will be covered?
  • Will my support person be welcome to play an active role?

Talk with your provider 

If you're still having trouble picking a class, your provider can help you decide which birthing method is best for you.

They can refer you to a childbirth class. They may also be able to tell you about classes offered at the hospital where you plan to give birth.

When to sign up 

If possible, try to sign up for a class several months before your due date. Classes fill up quickly—and you don't want to miss out. 

Extra credit—take a breastfeeding class

On top of a childbirth class, it's also recommended for pregnant women to take a breastfeeding class before giving birth. Like any new skill, breastfeeding takes knowledge and practice. Taking a class on it can help shorten your learning curve. 

More pregnancy news 

It may not just be childbirth that you have questions about. If you or your partner are wondering if sex is OK during your final trimester, find out what's OK and what's not with sexual intimacy during pregnancy

Sources: American Pregnancy Association; Office on Women's Health

Reviewed 1/12/2024

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