You've seen it in sitcoms and movies -- a woman giving birth is choking their partner during a contraction. Hilarious, unless you're the one in pain and your partner is clueless. You don't have to be in that position, though, when you take a childbirth class to prepare. Most expectant parents begin birthing classes when the mom-to-be is about 7 months pregnant.
Classes differ in their focus and philosophy. But all types provide valuable lessons for labor, delivery, and postpartum issues. Some teach parents the medication-free methods of managing the pain of childbirth. Others begin early in a woman's pregnancy and focus on the changes that occur throughout pregnancy.
As the most widely used childbirth method in the U.S., Lamaze classes approach childbirth as a natural and healthy process. Lamaze courses don't support or discourage the use of medicines or routine medical interventions during labor and delivery. Instead, they inform moms-to-be about their options so that they can make decisions for their own labor and delivery. Part of the Lamaze focus is on building your confidence or talking about how to keep your baby's birth simple and safe.
Small classes consist of at least 12 hours of instruction and can provide you with information on:
- Normal labor, birth, and early postpartum care
- Different ways to position yourself for labor and birth
- Massage and relaxation techniques to ease pain
- Breathing techniques during labor
- Practicing relaxation by using internal and external focal points
- Support during labor
- Effective communication skills
- Medical procedures
- Healthy lifestyle choices
The Bradley Method
Also called husband-coached birth, the Bradley method prepares the mother to deliver without pain medications and prepares the baby's father to be mom's birth coach. Although this method prepares you to give birth without medications, it also prepares you for the possibility of unexpected situations, such as an emergency cesarean section.
This 12-session course covers:
- The importance of nutrition and exercise
- Relaxation techniques for pain management
- Labor rehearsals
- How to avoid a cesarean birth
- Postpartum care
- Guidance for coach about supporting the mother
The Alexander technique is meant to improve your ease and freedom of movement, balance, flexibility, and coordination. Ideally, you will take weekly lessons while pregnant. This is an educational process. So the more you practice, the greater the benefits. Although the technique can be used by anyone, the goals for expectant mothers include:
- Improve comfort during pregnancy
- Increase pushing effectiveness during delivery
- Aid in recovery from childbirth
- Ease the discomfort of nursing
Also called the Mongan method, hypnobirthing is a relaxed natural childbirth education approach enhanced by self-hypnosis techniques. Teachers emphasize pregnancy and childbirth, as well as on pre-birth parenting and the consciousness of the pre-born baby. It is presented in a series of 5 two-and-a-half-hour classes or 4 three-hour classes.
Where to Find Birthing Classes
Unless you know the type of class you want to take, spend some time checking out the options in your community and discuss different options with your doctor. To find childbirth classes near you, ask your obstetrician, family doctor, or midwife. You may also find classes through:
- Friends, family members, and acquaintances
- Hospitals, pregnancy centers, and birth centers
- The International Childbirth Education Association, which teaches trainers
- Specific childbirth education organizations, such as Lamaze International, Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique, The Bradley Method, or HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method
- Community resource centers
If a technique you're interested in is not taught in your community, don't rule it out. You can take some courses by using books or DVDs in the comfort of your own home.