What kind of classes should I take to prepare for the labor/birth of my baby?
There are a variety of childbirth classes available, spanning a multitude of styles. Do you homework to find out what will best fit your personality and needs. Sit down and make a list of all the things you are interested in learning. Talk to friends. Gather information. Check with the hospital you plan to deliver at for information on the educational offerings they provide. Your obstetrician and pediatrician's offices can also be great sources of information.
Most parents assume that they must take a childbirth class with little regard to their own wishes relating to the birth. Are you planning on having an epidural? Has it been determined that you need a C-section? Do you wish to have an unmedicated delivery? When making the decision about where and with whom to take a childbirth class, talk to the instructor to find out what about their philosophy or approach to childbirth is. Make sure the instructor is a certified childbirth instructor. Good sources of information include Lamaze International and, The International Childbirth Education Association.
You should also consider what kind of learner you are. Do you do well in groups or do you prefer one-on-one instruction? There are many educators who will provide private classes. Do you want a lot of detailed information or more generalized information? Many classes are formatted over a six-week period, but there has been a trend to hold shorter classes, some three weeks in length, and some facilities offer weekend or one-day or courses. One-day courses are packed with information, but some couples prefer this condensed version to accommodate their busy schedules. So think carefully about which pace you might prefer.
It might be a good idea to have a list of questions ready for the instructor to see if you feel comfortable with their approach, philosophy. and certifications.
A comprehensive class should include the following topics:
- Prenatal development
- Physical changes in pregnancy
- Warning signals of pregnancy
- Signs and stages of labor
- Comfort measures during labor
- Support options during labor (midwives, doulas, etc.)
- Postpartum recovery
- Medication options (many hospitals will have an anesthesiologist give a presentation or make them available for a prenatal consultation)
- Possible medical interventions during labor
- Tour of the facilities
While taking classes, don't be afraid to ask questions! Also, if material that is being covered is confusing, ask for clarification. A good educator will welcome questions. Keep in mind that you want to be comfortable and enjoy these classes, too. Wear loose comfortable clothing. Bring water to drink and perhaps a snack. Most importantly, have fun!
While providing valuable information, these classes are also a wonderful way to meet and connect with other expectant parents. Sharing an experience and talking with other couples about their fears and questions can go a long way in reassuring nervous parents-to-be. In addition to the social aspect, this is a good opportunity to do some networking.