Childbirth Classes FAQ

When do I sign up for classes?
You will want to complete your classes by your 37th week, so plan to start no later than the beginning of your 7th month. Most childbirth series are 6 weeks long, but some may be shorter or longer, so you will need to factor in any extra time you may need. Starting them even earlier in pregnancy may give you more time to absorb the information and practice the relaxation techniques, but it may also mean that the other couples in your class will be due several months before you. It’s a personal choice. Also, many classes are restricted in size or frequency, so as soon as you have chosen the classes you feel are right for you, you need to sign-up to ensure you are confirmed in the class that falls in the right time-frame for you.

Can’t I just take hospital classes?
You can, but be sure you know what you are getting. Generally speaking, most hospitals sponsor their own childbirth classes, and while they may be the least expensive way to go, they are also typically very large classes with 20 couples or more. Hospital-based classes sometimes tend to teach less about all your options and more about that hospital’s processes and policies. Independent, certified instructors may offer a more comprehensive class that covers a variety of topics and birthing options available to you. They typically limit their class size to 8-10 couples, teach in their homes or a public location, and will allow you to bring anyone with you who will be supporting you during labor. Single moms can bring a friend or family member with them.

How much do classes cost?
Fees can range from free or low-cost hospital classes up to $200 for a longer, 12-week childbirth series. Most instructors will allow you to repeat classes at no charge. Some instructors will also allow you to barter for fees or they will charge on a sliding scale based on income.

So how do I know which classes are right for me?
Most childbirth instructors are “certified” by one or more organizations that specialize in childbirth education. These organizations all have slightly different philosophies on childbirth and the instructor is likely to align their teaching with their certifying organization. Below is a summary of the most common childbirth certification organizations and their philosophies. For more info, check out their websites:

Lamaze has evolved quite significantly over the past few years and now practices the following philosophy:

  • Birth is normal, natural and healthy.
  • The experience of birth profoundly affects women and their families.
  • Women’s inner wisdom guides them through birth.
  • Women’s confidence and ability to give birth is either enhanced or diminished by the care provider and place of birth.
  • Women have the right to give birth free from routine medical interventions.
  • Birth can safely take place in birth centers and homes.
  • Childbirth education empowers women to make informed choices in healthcare, to assume responsibility for their health and to trust their inner wisdom.

The Bradley Method®, which emphasizes the importance of diet and exercise during pregnancy, teaches relaxation and natural breathing techniques to manage pain, and involves the husband or partner as an integral participant in the birth process.

International Childbirth Education Association instructors abide by the philosophy of “Freedom of choice, based on knowledge of alternatives.” These classes typically focus on using as little medical intervention as possible, but they will provide an overview of all your options and prepare you with solid information about labor and relaxation techniques.

CAPPA’s philosophy is that natural childbirth is the safest way to have a baby. Women should be encouraged to trust their bodies in the birth process and myths about childbirth should be dispelled. They should be given the tools to achieve a natural birth, if that is what they desire, and should be equipped with knowledge to make informed decisions about their birth. This knowledge should include a full understanding of the risks of interventions and medications, as well as their benefits in certain situations. Education should not involve guilt but should empower women to choose the kind of birth that is best for them, be it medicated or un-medicated, intervention-free or full of traditional interventions. They believe that, given the facts, more women would choose a natural birth for themselves and their babies.

Birthing From Within – Childbirth is a profound rite of passage, not a medical event (even when medical care is part of the birth). The purpose of childbirth preparation is to prepare mothers to give birth-in-awareness, not to achieve a specific birth outcome.

HypnoBirthing® – The Mongan Method is as much a philosophy as it is a technique. It is based on the teachings of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician, who first forwarded the concept of natural birthing in the 1920s. The method teaches you that in the absence of fear and tension, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor.

Birth Works® embodies the philosophy of developing a woman’s self-confidence, trust and faith in her ability to give birth. They promote safe and loving birth experiences through education, introspection and confident action.

Can I have an epidural if I take childbirth classes?
Of course you can! Epidurals are always available with your caregiver’s approval. Childbirth classes should provide you the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing pain medications during childbirth.

What are the advantages of taking a childbirth class?
Beyond providing medical care, doctors and nurses have very little time to spend answering questions during your labor, so you’ll want to educate yourself on what you can do to have a positive birth experience. By taking classes, you’ll be better prepared and less fearful – which will result in a more positive birth experience. You’ll learn about the signs of labor and when to call your midwife or doctor. Topics include medication options and natural methods for pain management, such as relaxation and breathing patterns. You’ll also learn the risks and benefits of medical interventions, tips for successful breastfeeding, basic newborn care and postpartum support options. Most classes will show several videos of births and discuss how to develop a birth plan.

What do I need to bring with me to class?
You’ll be practicing exercises, relaxation and breathing and will want to wear comfortable clothes and bring a blanket and pillows.

(Written by Kathy Markum)