Women's Healthcare Topics

Childbirth Classes - Prenatal Classes

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Types of Childbirth Classes

No matter if you want a natural or medicated labor, childbirth preparation classes are a wonderful source of education, and they're also great places to make new friends.

If you're anxious about the arrival of your baby, taking a childbirth class will help ease your mind as you prepare for labor and delivery. You will learn about breathing and relaxation techniques, pain relief options, medical interventions that may occur during delivery, and even basics on how to care for your newborn baby.

Although pregnant women often start taking these classes in their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, classes fill up fast, so it's a smart idea to research the right class for you in the second trimester.

Childbirth classes are available in many hospitals and community centers. If you're interested in taking a class, talk to your healthcare provider about what he or she recommends. In the second trimester, you need to make a list of classes you're interested in and when the registration deadlines are. Childbirth classes are usually not expensive, and the fees can often be waived for couples in financial need.

There are a variety of childbirth or prenatal classes that you can take. These include:

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  • General Childbirth – If you are just looking for an overview of what to expect during labor and delivery, consider taking a general childbirth class. These classes will give you basics on both vaginal births and cesarean delivery. If you take the general childbirth class at the hospital, you will probably get a hospital tour and you'll learn about what will happen during your hospital stay. General childbirth classes also teach you breathing and calming techniques that will come in handy during labor and delivery.

  • Lamaze Method – Lamaze is one of the most popular natural childbirth techniques in the United States. Developed by a French obstetrician in the 1950s, Lamaze will teach the pregnant woman and her birth coach (which can be her husband or partner, family member, or friend) about the various stages of labor and delivery. The expectant mother is taught how to decrease and manage pain through various techniques, including relaxation and breathing exercises, positioning, and deliberate focusing. While Lamaze promotes a natural childbirth experience, expectant mothers can use pain relief medication if that's what they desire.

  • Bradley Method – Similar to the Lamaze Method, the Bradley Method also teaches expectant couples to have a natural childbirth experience. The Bradley Method is stricter than Lamaze in that it discourages pain medication and medical intervention during childbirth. Classes are twelve weeks long, and they usually start three months before delivery. The curriculum stresses the importance of physical training (exercise) and diet and nutrition in pregnancy. Pregnant women are taught deep breathing, relaxation techniques, squatting and other birthing positions. The goal is a medication-free labor and delivery.

  • HypnoBirthing (Mongan Method) – HypnoBirthing is an up and coming natural childbirth technique. It involves women self-hypothesizing themselves during childbirth. Women are taught to use self-hypnosis, relaxation, and visualization to help them achieve a comfortable and calm birth.

  • Breastfeeding/Lactation Classes – If you are planning to breastfeed your new baby, you should consider taking a breastfeeding class. These classes teach you about the benefits of breastfeeding your child, the anatomy of lactation, how to get started breastfeeding, proper latch on and positioning, how to tell when your baby has had enough to eat, and strategies for pumping and storing breast milk.

  • Sibling Classes – For pregnant women with other children, sibling classes will help the big brother or sister prepare for the new arrival. Your older children will be shown what newborn babies look like; they'll get to tour the maternity ward; and they will be taught about the changes a new baby brings to a family. Sibling classes are usually taught in a hospital setting, and they are intended to help your older child feel more comfortable in a hospital.


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