All pregnant women have one thing in common whether it is their first birth or fifth: some sense of anxiety about labor and delivery. This is because so much of it is unknown. Will childbirth classes help with this? Are birth classes necessary?
The thought of labor and delivery is ever present throughout pregnancy. It often contains a looming sense and scariness. While thinking about birth isn’t something we can erase, a childbirth class will make you feel far more confident about birth.
A childbirth class will bring confidence, empowerment, knowledge, and a sense of readiness. Change your mindset surrounding birth? A childbirth class is exactly what you need to get this done.
Today let’s talk about why childbirth classes are important, what you learn in birthing classes, and look into specific options out there.
Disclaimer: We may be compensated through the affiliate links in this post, but all opinions are our own. Read more here.
What is a childbirth class?
A childbirth class is designed to, you guessed it, prepare you for birth. It is a preparation tool that helps uncover the unknown, educate the expecting couple, and give you confidence. Childbirth classes became mainstream in the 1970s and had their peak popularity in the 90s.
Interestingly, in recent years, childbirth class attendance is going down. This is despite that fact that birth classes are such an important and empowering part of preparing for birth. Read on to learn about why birth classes they are still so helpful and relevant!
We’ll also discuss an alternative (online childbirth classes) that might be a better fit for our busy and screen-driven lifestyles today.
What will I learn in a childbirth class?
A typical, in-hospital birth class will cover all of the big points associated with labor and delivery. You’ll typically learn:
- How to track contractions
- When to go to the hospital
- An overview of different pain interventions
- What to expect from the whole birth process
- Various positions the baby might be in and what that means for birth
- Different pain management strategies that exist like hydrotherapy and birthing balls
- What to expect in terms of fetal monitoring during labor
- What might prevent you from being mobile throughout labor
- How the nurses would be checking dilation
- Possible procedures and what to expect in the event of a C-section
- What decisions you will need to make about your new baby upon his or her birth
How long do childbirth classes run for?
Usually these classes are taught over the course of 6-8 weeks. You meet once a week for a few hours with a group of other expecting couples. In other words, I get it, a pretty huge time commitment. And one that’s hard to get to in the evenings with your partner. This is definitely an example of why attendance in childbirth classes is dropping.
Luckily, other options are out there so that you don’t have to skip this important preparation. This online prenatal course is taught by an L&D nurse, is exactly like the ones taught at the hospital, AND she cut all the fluff to make the run time super manageable.
What won’t I learn in a typical in-hospital childbirth class?
Something I didn’t realize was that most of the hospital childbirth classes don’t actually include instruction on pain-management. While they do a fabulous job of educating about what to expect physically and medically during birth, they don’t give much in the way of tools. Don’t be surprised like I was to leave your childbirth class without an essential toolbox for birth.
There are classes that will teach pain-coping strategies!
That’s not to say there aren’t any childbirth classes that do teach this. Just don’t expect it from a basic labor and delivery class. Instead, find a more specialized class that emphasizes a natural birth. The Mama Natural Birth Course is a great online option for this.
When should I take a childbirth class?
Most people agree that the second half of your third trimester is the right time for a childbirth class. This is largely because if you are taking it in person, you want to information to be fresh in your head. You want to have just learned and had a chance to ask questions about it. You want to be able to envision your birth class knowledge during your actual labor and delivery.
If you decide to go the online childbirth class route, you have a lot more flexibility. This is because almost all online childbirth class options give you 12 months of access to your course! This means you can revisit and re-watch as many times as necessary, on your own schedule.
Are childbirth classes necessary?
While this isn’t a question with a definitive answer, I’m going to go ahead and say yes. While not a requirement to deliver, it WILL give you a more positive birth experience. You will know what to expect, you will be more confident, and your partner will know what the heck is going on.
Then why are so many couples choosing not to take childbirth classes?
While there’s no way to know for sure, it’s definitely not because they don’t want to be prepared. It’s largely because of time constraints and the access to information available online. The thing is, no one article can give you a thorough and reliable understanding of what to really expect.
The problem with only relying on information found online?
- Many articles aren’t written by experts
- They may not be specific to the type of birth you want
- You’ll be trying to convey that info to your partner instead of learning together
- An article isn’t the same as being spoken to like someone in person or in a higher-quality video format
- An article doesn’t provide guided practice sessions
- There’s no opportunity to ask questions
I guess what I’m trying to say is definitely read and take-in all that Pinterest has to offer. Reading people’s personal experience and advice is 100% worthwhile and important. However, don’t let that be a substitute for a professionally taught childbirth education.
Achieve the birth you want with the proper childbirth education
I’ve been hinting at this point along the way, but a class specific to your birth wishes can really make all the difference. For my first birth, I was set on delivering without pain-interventions. But, I fell into a trap. I really thought that because I wanted a natural birth bad enough, it would just happen. Incorrect. You have to set yourself up with knowledge, strategies and tools!
Online Childbirth Classes are where it’s at
Are the traditional, in-person, childbirth classes held at your hospital a must-do? Probably not. Not with the all of the amazing, and much more specified options that exist online. A childbirth class on your couch, at 9pm with snacks? Sign me up.
Why take an online childbirth class?
Life is busy. Many husbands want to support you but don’t want to go to an actual birth class. When you’re pregnant, you’re exhausted and spacey by the end of the day (which just happens to be prime in-person class times).
Online childbirth classes erase all of that!
- Complete your childbirth class when it’s convenient for you and your partner
- Rewatch the content as many times as you need to
- Listen to your childbirth class on the go. Many parts of an online childbirth class can be absorbed audibly
- Share the preparation process with your partner, on your terms
- Time constraints or bed rest won’t keep you from gaining knowledge and confidence
- Most classes include a discussion section and private, interactive discussion groups which allow you to ask as many questions as you need and connect with other expectant mamas
Are there online childbirth classes similar to the ones at a hospital?
The Prenatal Class for Couples is most similar to an in-hospital childbirth class, but with a far shorter run time. This means you can digest it all in one sitting. It’s even taught by an experienced labor and delivery nurse who used to teach classes at her hospital!
Birth Boot Camp offers a class specific to an in-hospital birth. The run time is around 15 hours, which is most similar to the format of an in-person class. It’s designed to be watched in sessions over a few weeks.
I want to have a natural birth
As someone who wanted a natural birth, but wound up with an epidural, I REALLY wish I had known about the online childbirth class options specific to achieving a natural birth.
Mama Natural is the bestselling online childbirth class for natural birth. It provides foundational education, practice sessions, student groups, and a variety of bonus material.
Hypnobubs is an online hypnobirthing class. This is a birth philosophy that is widely popular all over the world. With more interest in natural births here in the US, this birth philosophy is gaining traction. Learn childbirth basics, shift your entire birth mindset, and participate in a variety of breathing and meditation practice sessions.
What childbirth classes will best prepare my partner too?
All of the classes mentioned above aim to include your partner in the preparations. However, the best class, focused exclusively on getting dad prepared? Supporting Her!
Across Europe, childbirth education classes designed just for dads are very popular. Why isn’t this the case here! It shouldn’t be all on mom. Well, Supporting Her changes that. One of the only US-based classes that will get your husbands TOTALLY ready to support you in birth.
Our experiences with (and without!) childbirth classes
The perspective of a mom who took a variety of in-person classes
Throughout this article, I’ve shared a bunch about my experience. I took a variety of classes to prepare. They eased my anxiety and gave me more confidence as I approached birth. But like I mentioned earlier, none of the classes were specific to the birth I wanted.
Only one out of the five classes in my childbirth basics class taught breathing strategies. Naturally it was the one my husband couldn’t attend. Cut to all the couples practicing breathing exercises and massage for birth. And there was me, partnered with the (very kind) instructor. Not so awesome. Why didn’t I realize that you could do these classes online? This would have been a much better option for Patrick and I.
What happened during my first birth?
About 14 hours into my active labor, I wound up with an epidural. I didn’t have the birth toolbox necessary for a natural birth. Wanting it alone wasn’t enough. Since then, I’ve come to peace with this decision. But it took some time to process the birth that I had.
The mother who wished she’d taken a class
Trina was living in Germany for the year she was pregnant with L. Her flight back to the states was 6 weeks before L’s due date. This meant she had 6 weeks to fly home, move their belongings out of storage, unpack their household, get set up with the midwives, and sign up for a birth center for delivery. Oh- and did I mention she defended her PhD in Chemical Engineering during that time too??
In other words, there simply was no time to make it to an in-person childbirth class. She did a wide variety of research on medical wishes surrounding childbirth and included all of those in her birth plan. Her medical wishes and newborn care decisions were something she felt confident in.
What happened during her first birth?
Like many women, she thought a natural birth had its benefits and liked the idea of not using unnecessary medications. The problem was, she had no tools to utilize besides “dealing with the pain” and the few options the birth center had (tub and shower). She ended up trying nitrous oxide and then finally an epidural.
Birth classes would have prepped her better for the long 22 hour labor that she did have. In her words, “If we could have done it differently, I would have taken a birth class. It’s because even if I ended up getting an epidural again, having more tools to cope with the pain would have helped me to not be so EXHAUSTED by the end.”
The dad who felt helpless in supporting his wife
Our daughter’s birth was one of the happiest days of my life, but it was also hands-down the most stressful day of my life. Trina really wanted to avoid having an epidural and I wanted to support her in this goal.
I was tasked with this goal of helping Trina avoid an epidural, but I had zero tools at my disposal. Now of course, the nurses showed me some ways that I could help her relieve pressure and different massage techniques to reduce pain, but because it was my first time encountering these, I didn’t know how to troubleshoot or really do them well.
Overall, from a dad’s perspective, on “are birth classes necessary?”
Yes. Not necessary in the sense that you can’t successfully have a baby without them (Trina did, and mammals have been birthing offspring without courses for thousands of years), but necessary in the sense that they make both parents drastically more prepared for childbirth.
Commit to a childbirth class today!
Now that you have more information on why birthing classes are necessary, what you can expect to learn (and not), and the benefits of the different class choices out there, you can make an informed decision.
Find a childbirth class that is going to best fit your needs and birth wishes. Pick a class that will fit your schedule, and consider the flexibility and specificity of an online birth class.
Are you leaning towards a certain type of childbirth class? Anything you’d like to add to the pro or con column when it comes to birth classes? Leave a comment below! I love to hear from readers 🙂
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Alli Wittbold is a wife, mama, blogger, and online teacher. She feels passionate about connecting expectant mothers with childbirth class educators, and supporting them to achieve the birth they desire. After having her first baby delivered by a Certified Nurse Midwife, Alli is an advocate for midwifery prenatal care. She has learned so much about labor and delivery by attending and reviewing dozens of birth classes to help mothers learn and explore options. Alli co-authored the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook, resources she is proud to share with as many expectant and new mothers as possible. Read more about Alli.