Prenatal Education What to look for in a childbirth class

Prenatal education is important so that you and your partner can learn what type of birth you wish to have and how to have it. Your baby’s birth will be one of the most memorable events in your life. Think about how much time you spent planning your wedding. The birth of your baby will be an even more memorable life altering event. The amount of time you spend in childbirth classes is well worth it and minute compared to the amount of time you will spend taking care of your precious newborn.

A childbirth class should do three things:

1. It should help you determine the kind of birth you want;

2. It should equip you with the means to have the birth you want;

3. And, it should also prepare you for other possible labor and birth situations, since births seldom go exactly according to plan.

Childbirth classes are helpful for both first-time and experienced parents. In childbirth classes you will learn information from your instructors and the other students, which cannot be learned from a book.

A.L.A.C.E., Bradley®, I.C.E.A., Lamaze, natural childbirth, and prepared childbirth are all names of prenatal classes. There are many choices. Your selection of childbirth classes can greatly affect the type of birth that you will have.

Childbirth educators vary enormously in what they offer, in their beliefs, and in their experience. The location of the class may be very telling about what type of class it will be. A class located in a hospital or a doctor’s office typically reflects the views of that institution, whereas a class taught by an independent instructor held in a non-medical location may be a more consumer-oriented service.

According to Judith A. Lothian, currently on the Lamaze International Board of Directors, the purpose of childbirth education is talking about the birth experience before it happens. She says that to select the correct class for your needs, you must understand the philosophies of the teacher and the institution where the class is located. Look at the class size and curriculum. Does it provide personal attention, practice, and discussion?

Jay Hathaway, one of the executive directors of the Bradley Method®, says that most people looking for a childbirth class only ask about whether the class fits the due date, a convenient day and time, and if the class is conveniently located. She believes that the kind of childbirth class you choose will have a profound influence on the birth experience you will have.

She recommends comparison shopping when selecting a childbirth class:

Determine the instructor’s qualifications, training, and experience.

  • Does the instructor have specialized training in childbirth education?
  • Is the instructor currently certified by a national organization?
  • Has the instructor given birth using the method and techniques she teaches?

Determine for whom the instructor works.

Determine the method and techniques taught and if they work well in labor.

  • What percentage of students use these techniques in labor?
  • Will this class provide my coach the training he will need to help me avoid unnecessary pain and find positions and techniques that will help me to labor efficiently?

Determine whether you find this instructor informative and interesting.

  • Talk to the instructor on the phone or in person.

Determine specifics about the class and the environment in which it takes place.

  • What is the class size?
  • Will labor techniques be practiced in class?
  • What is the course content?
  • Are the classes comprehensive or do I need to take additional classes to learn about breastfeeding, newborn care, and caesareans?
  • What is the main emphasis of the class?

Determine the cost of the class.

  • What is the total cost of this course (including workbook & materials)?
  • How many total hours of instruction are included?
  • A childbirth educator cannot guarantee that you will have your version of a good birth experience. The person to ensure that is you, by virtue of the information you gather, your choice of both birth attendant and location, and whether you have enough support during your labor and birth. Choosing the right childbirth class is a great way to start.

Karen Wallace has been coached by her husband, Jeff Dean, in three Bradley® births. Karen and Jeff teach Bradley Method® of Natural Childbirth classes together in the greater Hartford/Middletown area of Connecticut.