Childbirth Education Classes
Childbirth education classes are generally designed to teach the stages of labor and the process your baby goes through to be born. They may cover prenatal care as well. You'll learn some pain relief techniques but what you learn and how much you learn depends on your class.
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Hospital Childbirth Classes
Hospital chilbirth education classes usually teach the stages of childbirth and tend to focus on breathing techniques to assist with labor pain. There will be a class where pain relief options are discussed, and an anesthesiologist may present material during the class.
Cute pic from a childbirth education reunion!
Many hospital classes teach only what is permissible at the hospital. They don't go into detail on how movement and position changes during labor can help women and tend to focus more on medication for pain relief.
You'll learn about cesarean sections, complications, and about newborn procedures. These procedures may be standard at the hospital and you'll have little choice in the matter. A hospital class will go over "textbook" labor and delivery. Be aware that the class will probably be biased to hospital policy.
Lamaze Childbirth Education Classes
Dr. Fernand Lamaze began developing prepared childbirth techniques in the 1950's. Lamaze childbirth education classes are taught by certified Lamaze instructors.
A couple using a childbirth class technique
The Lamaze philosophy teaches that childbirth is normal and natural. In Lamaze chilbrith education classes you will review the physiology of normal labor, birth, and postpartum periods. You may also cover breastfeeding.
Contrary to popular belief, Lamaze classes do teach more than just breathing techniques - they also cover massage, hydrotherapy, using heat and cold and general relaxation techniques to aid in pain relief.
You'll learn about communicating with your birth partner. You and your partner will also learn to communicate with your birth team.
You'll also cover complications, cesarean section, and medical options for pain relief. You will review the postpartum period and newborn procedures. Your class may cover some prenatal care and postpartum care.
Please note that if you take a Lamaze-style class within your hospital, your instructor may be limited as to what she can teach - everything must be in accordance with hospital policy.
Lamaze International has recently published The Official Lamaze Guide, a wonderful introduction to Lamaze and to natural childbirth. The book is very easy to read and a full of researched-backed information. It's a good read if family or friends are skeptical of your birth choices.
Bradley Childbirth Education Classes
Named for Robert A. Bradley, the Bradley Method is also called Husband Coached Childbirth. Dr. Bradley was a large advocate for the father to be allowed in the delivery room. He observed when the husband was allowed to help his wife labor, the woman often had an easier delivery and was less likely to opt for medications to relieve pain.
Click to see a video about the Bradley Method
The Bradley Method is taught by certified Bradley couples. These couple teams teach the method, which focuses on natural childbirth.
Bradley classes begin earlier than most other childbirth education classes because the Bradley class is a 12 week series. The classes tend to be very comprehensive. They cover pregnancy, labor, birth, and the postpartum period (including breastfeeding).
Your Bradley class will cover natural childbirth and teach your labor partner how to be an active "coach" during labor. The focus is on husbands, but you can take somebody else as your coach.
Bradley classes stress excellent nutrition and cover it in depth. You'll learn exercises to practice during pregnancy, and there's an emphasis placed on squatting when possible.
You'll learn relaxation techniques and natural breathing techniques. You'll learn to trust your body during labor and birth and your coach will be taught "signposts" that give a good indication of where in a labor a woman is.
Bradley childbirth education classes teach the importance of immediate and continuous contact with your new baby. They'll also cover breastfeeding basics. The classes review the postpartum period.
You're taught how to be a responsible consumer when making your choices about where to give birth and what procedures to allow. The classes will also cover possible complications of pregnancy and birth (and how to avoid many), as well as cesarean section. You'll also cover emergency childbirth management.
Bradley classes are usually given in a small group. These childbirth education classes can be a good place to meet like minded women who are also planning natural births. Your Bradley instructor will be available for you to call during labor if you need her.
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way is a Bradley-based book. It has some of the most helpful descriptions of labor that I have ever read, and I recommend it for all pregnant women.
If you desire to take a class with an instructor and other couples, Bradley classes are my recommendation to you. I also urge you consider working through The Pink Kit at home to supplement your Bradley classes.
Birthing From Within
Birthing From Within (BFW) childbirth education classes were developed by Pam England. BFW teaches that birth is a rite of passage and not a medical event.
Click to see a video about Birthing From Within
The classes are taught by BFW mentors with a strong focus on empowerment and on nurturing the mother-to-be (parents-to-be). The classes teach about birth from the mother's, father's, baby's, and culture's perspective.
BFW childbirth education classes "help parents build a pain-coping mindset so they may fully participate in birth's rite of passage."
A unique aspect of the BFW method is the focus on birth art. BFW's book, appropriately titled Birthing From Within, covers birth art in depth.
Pam England is a strong believer that birth art can help mothers (and fathers) to work through feelings and thoughts about pregnancy and birth. It is useful to help sort through feelings about the current pregnancy, as well as past pregnancy and birth experiences.
BFW teaches that you can learn a lot through birth art and includes many mediums, including paints, pastels, and clay, among others.
Some BFW mentors offer an early pregnancy class, which is recommended. It covers prenatal care focusing on excellent prenatal nutrition, on prenatal exercise, and on communicating with your partner.
The childbirth education class is usually six weeks long. The classes teach you to create a birth space no matter where you are birthing. They focus on helping you develop a pain-coping mindset. This includes numerous practice techniques that are very helpful. The Birthing From Within book is good - and it's especially good if you need to work through fears or past trauma that could effect your birth.
The classes also teach the responsible use of drugs during labor. They review how to "lose it" in labor, and cover the pushing stage in depth. They teach you about welcoming and caring for your new baby. The classes focus on helping you make the major transition to parenthood.
Independent Childbirth Classes:
Your doula or midwife may offer independent childbirth education classes. She may teach you in a group setting with other expectant mothers, or she may offer private classes.
Her classes will most likely cover the same topics as the other childbirth education methods, but with her own slant. If you are preparing for a homebirth or a birth center birth her classes will probably be tailored to that.
You may also choose to teach yourself at home. Read a good selection of books. Choose an excellent home study program - The Pink Kit is my top recommendation (and even if you take other classes I think you should consider the Pink Kit - the skills are that important!)
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Photos by Anthony J and MammaLoves