Which Childbirth Education Class Is Right For You

How to choose the best birthing class to prep for the final exam.

Illustration courtesy of Preconceive.

Illustration courtesy of Preconceive.

Got a baby on the way? You probably have a gazillion questions about the big day – especially if you are a first-time mom. While nothing can recreate the actual experience of bringing a child into this world, childbirth education classes are a great way to ready yourself for Labor Day. There are several options to choose from, with costs ranging from free to upwards of $1,000, and while the ultimate goal of all courses is to help expectant parents make their birthing experience as positive as possible, each has its own method and philosophy. To help you in your search, we’ve outlined 6 of the most common settings that offer childbirth education classes.

Remember that this is just a guide to help you get started. Do your own research, call the facilities and educators you are considering and make sure that their birthing philosophy fit yours.

Birthing Center
What it is: A birth center is a place that offers prenatal care and labor and delivery services. Some birth centers are freestanding, while others can be part of a hospital. While not all birth centers offer classes, those that do center their modules around community, encourage partners to attend, and sometimes include a tour of the facility. The classes are usually run by more than one facilitator.
What’s the philosophy: Classes that take place at a birthing center tend to be a good fit for the holistic and natural-birth enthusiasts, although it can suit those who want to attempt a natural birth but would still like to have easy access to medical aid. If you are planning on a cesarean birth, a vaginal birth after cesarean or a birth with an epidural, it’s best to thoroughly read over the class curriculum and make sure that the birth center you are considering still fits your birth plan.
Class sizes: Courses that are run by birthing centers can have a bigger group of people attending.

Hospital
What it is: Hospital-run classes prepare expectant parents who want or require medical assistance during the birthing process. They provide general information on labor and delivery and help you understand the birthing experience that you can expect at that particular hospital. Facilitators, who are usually labor and delivery nurses, will go over the protocols that are specific to the hospital’s maternity ward. Expectant parents choosing a hospital class will usually take it at the hospital associated with their practitioner.
What’s the philosophy: Because these classes are affiliated with a specific hospital, they may endorse medical interventions and favor medicated vaginal birth and cesarean sections over natural deliveries.
Class sizes: These classes also tend to have more attendees than in other settings in order to fit in all parents scheduled to deliver at that hospital.  

Yoga Studio
What it is: Although yoga studios usually recruit outside educators to lead their birthing classes, they’re often holistically focused. Class description can vary from one studio to another, so it’s best to reach out prior to committing to a specific location.
What’s the philosophy: The educators there are usually holistic advocates and help partners find their role in the birthing process. Many of them also take a more innovative stance and teach about birthing tools like birthing balls or incorporate tenets of yoga.
Class Size: These classes tend to be smaller than those at birth centers and hospitals.

Doula/Midwife
What it is: Doulas and midwives like to base their courses on your birth plan. Classes can take place in your home, their home, a rented place, yoga studio or a birthing center. In some cases, several doulas might even team up to create a community center. The facilitators who run these classes are certified in childbirth education and can go over any type of births – be it natural, cesarean or vaginal after cesarean.
What’s the philosophy: Doulas and midwives often champion non-medicated natural births, although they are qualified to incorporate information on medically-assisted labor and delivery – and more than willing if it is the birthing experience you desire. They will give you information on alternative techniques to cope with pain, coach you on how to use birthing balls and, just like educators at certain yoga studios, help birth partners find their place.
Class sizes: These classes can be in group (usually smaller than in hospitals and birthing centers) or one on one with the instructor – all in all, much more personal and intimate.

Weekend Retreat
What it is: A weekend getaway for expectant couples fuses relaxation, romance and childbirth education and is becoming a new trend in babymooning. They include prenatal yoga classes, healthy meals and snacks, optional massages, and childbirth classes.
What’s the philosophy: The main goal of weekend retreats is to provide you with all the tools you need to get the childbirth experience that you want – to train your body and your mind for childbirth. Classes go over stages of labor, the different positions for labor and birth, techniques to cope with pain, medications and medical interventions, and the role of birth partners (among other things).
Class sizes: These retreats tend to be much more exclusive and intimate.

Baby Store
What it is: It isn’t just about shopping anymore: many local baby stores now hold childbirth and childcare education classes  to provide as much guidance as possible to new parents and parents-to-be. Shop-led courses are a fun, interactive way to educate yourself about labor and delivery while allowing you to meet fellow expectant parents in your neighborhood. Baby stores usually recruit childbirth certified educators and doulas for their courses.
What’s their philosophy: Baby store educators can vary in philosophy, and will likely reflect the ethos of the baby store. If the store tends towards more natural parenting, the instructor might favor that approach. If the store appeals to a more mainstream consumer, the class might be more middle-of-the-road.
Class sizes: Classes at baby stores can be bigger than other options.

Adorable illustration above courtesy of Preconceive, which provides birth and parenting education classes and individualized coaching.

Kayla Bitten

Kayla Bitten

Kayla Bitten is a birth doula, writer, nutritionist, yoga instructor, and childbirth educator. Find articles on pregnancy, birthing, wellness, maternal & reproductive health, and beauty on her blog at The Modern Doula.

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