The following summaries are meant to acquaint you with some of today's most popular childbirth classes and resources.
The Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (ALACE)
ALACE childbirth classes teach an expecting woman to trust her body's natural ability to give birth and to provide her with relaxation, breathing, and visualization tools for labor. Classes are structured on a midwifery model of care that encourages couples to work as a team and become active participants in every stage of birth.
The curriculum covers each stage of normal labor and what can be done if something unexpected occurs. Other subjects include selecting a birth setting, deciding on a doctor or midwife, the pros and cons of pain medication as well as postpartum care for mom and baby. The final class is a potluck dinner where ALACE alumni return to answer questions, share birth stories, and lend support to expectant parents. The course involves seven, two-hour classes. (For more information: www.alace.org; 888-22-ALACE.)
Birthing from Within
Developed by Pam England CNM, MA, Birthing From Within presents childbirth as a rite of passage for both parents and baby, rather than as a medical procedure. "The essence of childbirth preparation is self-discovery, not assimilating obstetric information," states the organization's website. While facilitators will discuss pain medication, they encourage expectant mothers to trust in their bodies' capacity to birth naturally and to reinterpret pain as something to be expected, but not feared.
Participants explore the psychological and spiritual sides of birth through the creation of birth art, creative projects that include writing, painting, and sculpting. The series runs for six weeks, two hours per class with three postnatal sessions. (For more information: www.birthingfromwithin.com; 805-964-6611.)