Updated: May 16, 2018
As you approach the middle of your pregnancy, you have probably been asked by your provider or others if you are planning on attending childbirth classes. Do you know what the benefits are of childbirth classes? Are they worth your time and money? Why type should you take and where? There are many reasons to take childbirth education classes. They:
Build confidence in your body's ability to give birth
Help you know your options and how to advocate for yourself or your partner
Teach you comfort, relaxation and pain relief techniques
Increase your partner's confidence in knowing how to support you during labor and after delivery.
Research also supports the benefits of attending prenatal classes. Benefits include the following:
Attending childbirth classes is associated with higher rates of vaginal birth (Stoll & Hall, 2012)
Improved maternal mental health (National Childbirth Trust, 2010)
Increased mental preparation for childbirth among pregnant women (Koehn, 2008)
Decreased use of epidural anesthesia during childbirth (Ferguson, Davis & Brown, 2013)
An increased likelihood of arriving at the hospital in active labor (Ferguson, Davis and Brown, 2013)
Increased breastfeeding initiation and continuation (Schrader-McMillan, Barlow & Redshaw, 2009)
Greater satisfaction with the couple and parent-infant relationships after birth (National Childbirth Trust, 2010)
When looking at options for childbirth education, Lamaze International explains in their resource Choosing A Childbirth Educator :
"A good childbirth class can not only prepare you for labor, it can expand your personal philosophy of birth, lessen your fears and, most importantly, build your confidence in yourself and your body. It is a good idea to contact a childbirth educator or two to find out what their classes are like before you sign up."
The downloadable resource has a great list of questions you should ask any prospective childbirth educator as well as topics that should be covered in class. When exploring class formats and options, some wonder, why choose private childbirth classes?
They allow for flexibility and individualization
Classes are based around the expectant parents' schedule when typical weeknight classes may not accommodate everyone's availability
If parents are looking for an individualized approach, tailored to their unique needs and wishes for labor and birth
For those who suffer from social anxiety or feel uncomfortable with group activities or sharing
Allows expectant parents to ask questions and open up about things that may affect their labor and birth that they may not feel comfortable doing in a group
Expectant parents are able to develop a trusting relationship with their childbirth educator, get to know each other on a more personal level and have the ability to follow up after the birth for sharing of their birth story as well as postpartum/breastfeeding support.
There is a history of abuse or past trauma that may resurface during prenatal care, labor, birth, or breastfeeding.
A private educator can help expectant parents navigate these experiences with private discussions, assistance in formulating a plan, providing tools and techniques, and connecting expectant parents with community resources like counselors to collaborate in their care.
There is a history of a previously unsatisfying or traumatic birth experience
Single mothers either without a coach or with a friend/family member as a support person who don't feel like they fit in with the typical childbirth class couples
LGBTQ couples looking for a class that is inclusive, sensitive to their needs, and supportive
Women on bedrest unable to attend a traditional class
Independent childbirth educators are often specialists in what they do
Certified childbirth educators have specialized training in evidence-based birth as well as teaching strategies for educating adult learners and have often passed a certification exam testing their knowledge
They are passionate about birth and working with couples seeking a safe, healthy, and satisfying birth experience
Education provided is not based on a certain facilities policies, but rather on current evidence-based information on labor, birth, and breastfeeding.
The importance of preparing one's self, and educating one's self, on what to expect, how to manage, and how to advocate for one's self during pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding, and life with a newborn cannot be overemphasized. Birth is a process a women's body is inherently designed to carry out beautifully, but for which she is often under prepared and under supported. Every woman should be afforded the ability to enter motherhood with confidence in not only her body's abilities but also confidence in making informed, empowered decisions for herself and her newborn. It is not just important for birth, it is important for the rest of her life as a woman and as a mother. Resources: Ferguson, S., Davis, D., and Browne, J. (2013). Does Antenatal Education Affect Labour and Birth? A Structured Review of the Literature. Women and Birth; 26: e5–e8.
Koehn, M. (2008). Contemporary Women’s Perceptions of Childbirth Education. The Journal of Perinatal Education; 17(1):11-18.
Lamaze for Parents : Lamaze for Parentshttp://www.lamaze.org/
National Childbirth Trust, (2010). NCT Antenatal Services – Policy, Practice and Evidence. Retrieved from: http://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/related_documents/1AntenatalReportFINALWITHOUTBLEED_0.pdf
Schrader McMillan, A., Barlow, J., and Redshaw, M. (2009). Birth and Beyond: A Review of the Evidence about Antenatal Education. Retrieved from: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130107105354/ http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_110371.pdf
Stoll, K. H., & Hall, W. (2012). Childbirth Education and Obstetric Interventions Among Low-Risk Canadian Women: Is There a Connection? The Journal of Perinatal Education, 21(4), 229-237. doi:10.1891/1058-1243.21.4.229