Finding a Childbirth Class PDF Print E-mail
Written by Laura Maxson, LM   


For some, choosing a childbirth preparation class simply means picking up a form at the doctor's office to see when the next class begins, but is this really the best way to choose a class? Asking a care provider for suggestions is a good start, but don't let the investigation stop there. Instructors working for hospitals, clinics or specific care providers sometimes have to answer to others about the content of their classes. This is one reason many parents specifically look for an independent instructor who might be in a better position to design classes to suit themselves and the needs of their students.


Popular classes can fill up fast, so parents should aim to sign up early. Plan enough time to finish the class a few weeks before the due date, but not so early that the class is over when the due date is still months away. Instructors, too, find it frustrating to cancel a class due to lack of interest, only to have several last minute callers.


One of the many benefits of attending a childbirth education class is the opportunity to develop connections with other parents. Classes should be small enough for plenty of parents’ questions, but large enough to hear a variety of views - usually somewhere between four and ten couples. Many have found lifelong friendships though their childbirth class. Those offering a reunion class, after all the families have given birth, provide an added depth to the experience.


Most childbirth classes will provide basic anatomy and the how-tos of the birth process. Class time for learning and reviewing relaxation and labor coping skills is as important as time to discuss personal hopes and fears, and finding answers to specific questions. Parents should understand the risks and benefits of pain relief options and the importance of non-pharmacological pain coping techniques as well.


Classes might incorporate information from the Spinning Babies website, birth art and other non-lecture activities from the books like, Birthing from Within, as well as meditation or self-hypnosis techniques. But most of all, a childbirth class should instill confidence in a woman's ability to give birth and her partner's ability to support her. Both should learn to recognize and avoid common childbirth situations that can lead to the cascade of interventions that can increase the risk for a cesarean.


A six-week class is common, with some lasting up to 12 weeks. There are also, shorter refresher classes for second time parents, one-day "express" classes for busy parents, sibling classes for children, and classes with a special focus such as teen or LBGTQ parents, early pregnancy, VBAC and breastfeeding. Many childbirth educators and birth doulas offer private or specialized classes on request. Other complementary activities can be helpful in childbirth preparation such as prenatal yoga, singing circles, centering pregnancy and breastfeeding and parenting support groups, especially those incorporating discussion of childbirth and postpartum issues.


Costs will vary and while it is tempting to take a class simply because it is covered by insurance, shopping around for a class might prove to be a good investment. Choose a class because it meets your needs, not because it is free.


Start thinking and talking about childbirth classes early. Check out the childbirth education listings on Birth Network’s web page and talk with friends about the classes they attended, and ask questions. Did they enjoy the class? Were partners included in the activities and discussions without pressure or embarrassment? Were the classes small enough to allow for discussion? Were they large enough to get a variety of opinions? Did the classes prepare them well for birth?


When talking to instructors, ask if they follow a specific birth method or philosophy? (Bradley, Lamaze, etc.) Independent classes might offer more flexibility. Does the class cover cesareans, VBAC, breastfeeding, homebirth, newborn parenting (or other areas of interest)? Are the classes at a convenient time/location?


There is no one right way to prepare to give birth, explore your options and find the what seems right for you.


Listing of local childbirth educators, birth doulas & prenatal activities

Birth Network -www.birthnet.org

Growing up in Santa Cruz Calendar


Childbirth Education Methods:

Spinning Babies – www.spinningbabies.com

toLabor - www.tolabor.com

Birthing From Within - www.birthingfromwithin.com

BirthWorks - www.birthworks.org

Bradley Method - www.bradleybirth.com

Hypnobirthing www.us.hypnobirthing.com

Lamaze - www.lamaze.org

Mindfulness based - www.mindfulbirthing.org


Laura Maxson, LM, CPM, the mother of three grown children, has been working with pregnant and breastfeeding women for over 30 years. Currently she is the executive director of Birth Network of Santa Cruz County and has a homebirth midwifery practice. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 June 2017 21:01
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