Childbirth Education Overview

Childbirth education classes cover the basics of labor and birth. What you learn and how useful it is for natural birth depends on your class. Here’s an overview of what you can expect at different classes.

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Hospital Childbirth Classes

Hospital childbirth education classes usually teach the stages of childbirth and focus on breathing techniques to assist with labor pain. There’s a class where pain relief options are discussed, and an anesthesiologist may present material on labor medications during the class.

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.

Online Childbirth Classes

Online childbirth classes give you the benefit of a comprehensive childbirth class combined with the convenience of home study. Some classes, such as MamaBaby Birthing classes , also have weekly personal interaction. I developed MamaBaby Birthing to give you comprehensive natural birthing classes with a personal touch :)

Most online classes are geared towards families preparing for natural birth and cover the physiology of labor and birth, staying healthy and low-risk, understanding birth interventions, how to handle labor and birth, and how to work with your baby for a smooth, safe birthday.

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 A couple using a childbirth class technique

The Lamaze philosophy teaches that childbirth is normal and natural. In Lamaze childbirth 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 also cover complications, cesarean section, and medical options for pain relief. You will review the postpartum period and newborn procedures.

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.

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.

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.

If you desire to take a class with an instructor and other couples, Bradley classes are my recommendation to you.

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.

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.  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.

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.

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 home birth or a birth center birth her classes will probably be tailored to that.

Remember, you can also choose to study at home. Read a good selection of books. Choose an excellent home study program – I’ve developed the MamaBaby Birthing program to be a comprehensive, personalized home study childbirth class. Click here to get more details (opens in a new tab).


Photos by Anthony J and MammaLoves