I must admit that I was on the fence about taking child birthing classes. I wasn’t sure if they would be worth while. If you’re anything like me, you may be wondering – are birthing classes necessary?
Most moms-to-be have some level of anxiety over childbirth. The uncertainty of labor and delivery can be scary.
Some moms may find that having more information from prenatal classes to be helpful. For other moms this may be information overload or even trigger new fears.
Childbirth classes may not be the right option for everyone, so we want to help you figure out whether or not they are the best choice for you.
This post has a lot of helpful information, it’s definitely a good one to pin now so you can come back and reference it later.
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What Are Birthing Classes?
Birthing classes (also referred to as childbirth classes) aim to educate parents on the process of delivery, introduce labor coping techniques, and explain the science behind childbirth.
Classes are generally either one night per week for 6-8 consecutive weeks or crammed into a single weekend course.
Birthing classes prepare you for the physical and emotional experiences of childbirth. They cover details of the following:
- Changes in female anatomy during pregnancy and labor
- The stages and progression of labor
- Physical signs that labor has started (water breaking, contractions, etc)
- Labor pain management options (medical and coping mechanisms)
- Different positions and techniques for labor
- Possible complications and choices
- How your partner can best support you during delivery
Types of Childbirth Classes
There are many different types of childbirth classes so you’ll want to pick which most closely aligns with your own preferences. Some classes focus on natural births and others will discuss medical interventions as well.
Lamaze classes are the most common type you’ll find in the US. Lamaze emphasizes natural birth and avoiding unnecessary medical interventions. Classes include instruction on natural pain management techniques like massage, relaxation, and breathing but also provide information on medication as well as possible medical interventions that could be necessary.
The Bradley Method is another fairly common type of childbirth class. These classes focus on natural birth and the support of a partner or labor coach is emphasized. Women are also encouraged to prepare for childbirth through diet and exercise throughout their pregnancy.
While less common, there are other options for birthing classes including hypnobirthing classes (teaches self hypnosis techniques to manage pain), the Alexander technique (relieve pain through conscious control of the musculoskeletal system), and Birthing from Within (holistic approach that supports all types of birth experiences).
Regardless of which type of birthing class you decide to take, make sure that your instructor is certified to teach that method.
Are Birthing Classes Covered By Insurance?
Birthing classes are not generally covered by health insurance plans, but you should always check with your individual health insurance company to fully understand your benefits.
The good news, however, is that childbirth classes are often reimbursable by most FSA and HSA plans.
Expect to pay between $75-$150 for birthing classes. Classes consist of about 10-15 couples in a group setting. Private instruction is often available but the cost is exponentially higher.
Rachel’s Stance | Are Birthing Classes Necessary? Absolutely
I am admittedly a total nerd so anytime I have the option to take a class, sign me up.
I took all the classes, childbirth, breastfeeding, newborn care – I like classes.
Fortunately, I was lucky that they were offered locally and at reasonable prices.
So to say that these classes are “necessary” seems a bit hyperbolic. Sure, I could have birthed my baby without them, but I felt so much more prepared, less anxious, and more confident in my decisions with this knowledge.
I also took my class through the hospital where I was going to deliver, which I highly recommend. This way you get accurate information on the specific policies that will apply to your labor.
Details like what types of equipment like birthing balls are provided and allowed, what positions you can labor and deliver in, if they have birthing tubs, whether baby’s heartbeat monitoring is continuous or intermittent, if their policy requires you to have an IV, and how long it takes to receive an epidural after you ask. I would not have even known what questions to ask if it were not for this class.
Feel Informed and Prepared
This is definitely a personal preference, but I like to have as much information as possible.
Like many moms, I was super anxious about labor.
Would I know when I was in labor?
How much would contractions hurt?
What if something went wrong?
These worries would keep me up at night, but learning as much as I could about childbirth helped ease my nerves.
Childbirth classes gave me tons of information on what to expect and the opportunity to ask all of my questions.
Just because labor is natural does not mean that it is easy. I found it really helpful to learn about pain management techniques from massage and breathing to narcotics and epidurals.
It was extremely helpful to me to learn about medical interventions before I was in labor. Having that information ahead of time, allowed me to fully think through the different options and their potential consequences with a clear mind.
I already knew the pros and cons of each medical intervention so I was confident in my decisions instead of allowing myself to be swayed by the pain of the moment.
Let’s be honest, when I was in labor signing the waiver for the epidural I wasn’t really paying attention to the long list of side effects.
I felt fine with that decision though because I already knew that information. I also already knew that getting an epidural was increasing my chances of needing other interventions.
Had I not already know that information, I would not really have been in a position to make an informed decision.
I am also a worst case scenario sort of person and I want to know what happens if the s*#% hits the fan.
I totally get that not everyone wants this info, but I find it oddly comforting to know there is a plan for complications.
And the childbirth classes didn’t just help me feel informed and prepared, they helped my husband too.
Get Your Partner Involved Too
So I read approximately 20 books about pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care. Want to guess how many books my loving husband read?
0… yes that’s right, zero.
I love him dearly and he’s an awesome dad, but reading about dilation and effacement was just not his thing.
I can’t say he was exactly excited about attending childbirth classes, but he did it relatively happily and he learned a lot.
The class prompted us to really discuss the details of my birth plan as well as medical interventions from epidurals to cesarean sections so we were on the same page about the birth experience and possible medical decisions.
He felt less nervous and more confident knowing what to expect, what possible complications could occur, and what potential decisions he could be forced to make under less than ideal circumstances.
He also learned lots of different ways to help and support me throughout labor and had a much better idea of what I was going through.
Sharing child birthing classes with my husband was a great way to help us get ready for our baby together and have a much better understanding of the birth experience.
A MUST for a Natural Birth
Full disclosure, I had medicated births, BUT I have asked pretty much every mom I know who went natural how they managed and they overwhelmingly told me that their natural childbirth classes were the key.
I have heard over and over from these moms that what they learned in their classes (most often the Bradley Method) got them through the most difficult and painful parts of labor.
Since I was begging through tears for the epidural, I am in awe of these moms. The way these moms rave about their childbirth classes has me convinced that they are absolutely necessary if you have your heart set on a natural birth.
Pro Mom Tip: When to Take Childbirth Classes
Pregnancy can be a busy time and you may be wondering when you should schedule childbirth classes.
Ideally, you want to take the classes around the beginning of the third trimester. Sooner than that you may not remember the material as well, but you don’t want to wait too long in case your baby arrives a bit early.
Also consider the length or the classes when scheduling as they can range anywhere from a single weekend upwards to 4 – 12 weeks, though 6 weeks tends to be most common.
The best window of opportunity for childbirth class is around months 6 and 7 of your pregnancy.
If you’re interested in natural birth classes, these tend to run longer and some (like the Hypnobirthing and the Alexander technique) should be started earlier.
Jo’s Stance | Are Birthing Classes Necessary? Not Really
Full disclosure: I intended to take childbirth classes when I was pregnant with my first child. However between preparing the nursery, working full time, and napping, I just didn’t find the time to sign up – much less actually attend classes.
In the end, I’m really happy with my decision. My procrastination ended up paying off!
I didn’t feel behind or unprepared for labor when it happened. It came and went despite me not have learned about different breathing techniques. Plus, I saved some money.
I understand that some moms may be comforted by taking classes, but I wouldn’t consider birth classes to be necessary. Here’s why:
Childbirth Will Happen Whether You’re Prepared or Not
Labor and delivery takes roughly 24 hours. Do you really need 6 weeks of classes to prepare you for a single day?
During my prenatal visits, my doctor told me signs that labor was starting and when to call the provider on call. The hospital registration paperwork forced me to think about details about my delivery (if I wanted pain medications, who I wanted in the delivery room with me, etc). The free hospital tour went over different positions and options for labor.
When I actually went into labor, the nurses told me everything I needed to do. So I ended up being completely ready despite not formally “preparing” at all.
You know what I wasn’t prepared for? The actual baby!
If you’re going to take a class, I highly recommend taking a child care or breastfeeding class. Those will help you for months, or ever years.
More Information Isn’t Necessarily Better
All mothers are obviously different. Therefore, it’s natural to assume that various amounts of information will appeal to individual mothers.
For some women, they may feel comforted to know every single detail of the labor and delivery process. Knowing every single step, and every possibility for something going wrong, may make them feel informed and prepared.
On the other hand, other moms may become more overwhelmed and concerned with increasing amounts of information.
Most ladies are somewhere in between. Then you have to decide if birthing classes will provide information you need to feel comfortable with labor.
You Can Learn for Free on Your Own Time
If you want more information about labor and delivery you don’t need to sign up for an in-person birthing class. Instead consider online childbirth classes.
Babycenter has some excellent (and completely free!) online childbirth classes. It’s a seven part series that will hit all the highlights that we listed above (stages of labor, managing labor pain, etc).
You can go to YouTube and search for birth videos, labor advice, and delivery accounts from real moms. This way you can tailor your birth education to exactly the information you are seeking.
Ok… So Are Birthing Classes Worth It?
Maybe you agree with Rachel. Maybe you have the time, money, and thirst for knowledge that birthing classes will quench.
Or maybe you’re like Jo. You feel comfortable with the information provided to you by your doctor and nurses. In that case, birthing classes may be an unnecessary expense and time suck.
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