Childbirth Education Classes - Different Types and When to Take Them
Childbirth is perhaps one of the most natural procedures and is a seminal moment in every mother’s life. For almost all first-time moms, it can be a strange and confusing process. Although there is a lot of information online, even the most well-researched soon-to-be mom often seeks the preparation of childbirth education classes. These classes provide new moms with hands-on techniques and knowledge about the entire childbirth process that ultimately reduces stress when the day finally comes. Some of the main topics of these classes include:
- Pain relief
- Different labor positions
- Advice on where to give birth
- Firsthand testimonies about the experience
- Medical Interventions
Class Logistics (Size, Curriculum, Methodology)
Childbirth classes can range from private care sessions to large groups. Classes of 10-12 or more tend to be far too big since the teacher is not able to provide the required attention to each couple. Private sessions tend to allow more individual attention from the teacher but do not allow for any bonding between different couples going through the pregnancy process. Most experts believe the ideal class size should be around 5-6 couples.
The class is also often taught in different ways. Many use slideshows and lectures while others put more effort into interactive based activities. The curriculum often deals with both the physical and psychological aspects of the birthing process and some of their processes include massage, aromatherapy, or epidural anesthesia.
These classes are run by both public hospitals and private practitioners and differ in many ways yet all share a common goal of preparing both the mother and their spouse for the birthing process.
Types of Childbirth Classes
There are many different types of childbirth classes and it's key that soon-to-be moms research the different options available and decide what’s right for them. There are numerous types of childbirth classes that range in group size, teaching methodology, ideology, and birthing techniques. Listed below are the most known childbirth class programs. Many classes use different variations of these techniques and may even use a melange of a few of them, but they can be roughly categorized as such.
When one thinks of childbirth classes, this tends to be the first name that comes to mind. Since the 1950s Lamaze classes have been a staple of naturalized childbirth classes that place heavy emphasis on maintaining calm through rhythmic breathing exercises. These classes center around a more naturalized method approach to childbirth rather than modern medical techniques used to artificially reduce the mother’s pain. While this name is often used to refer to childbirth classes writ large, it is only one of the many approaches to parturition.
Pioneered by Dr. Bradley through his work on ‘Husband-Coached Childbirth’, the Bradley method believes that women have been proven to have better birthing experiences when their husband is there to support them in the delivery room. The study also claimed that if the father was present during the birth, the father developed a stronger bond much quicker than they would have otherwise. This work was enormously helpful and helped advocate for fathers being more present in the birthing and pregnancy process. The Bradley method also emphasizes an acceptance of pain as part and parcel of the birthing process and mothers who take these classes rarely use painkillers.
While some of the other approaches emphasize breathing or relieving stress, the Alexander technique appears to place emphasis on physical exercises to make sure the mom’s body does not tense up during the delivery. These classes force the moms to cope with pain by teaching them to deal with uncomfortable physical positions. These students also learn to properly squat to move their body in conjunction with their pelvic floor to smoothen the process through the birth canal.
International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) has a more progressive philosophy when it comes to childbirth. It has a more interdisciplinary approach to parturition which incorporates ideas from the fields of sociology, anthropology, midwifery, psychology, nursing, and medicine. It also believes in the principle that each mother should choose their own preferences for the delivery room and tries not to sway them in one direction or another. However, the ICEA does mirror the Bradley method, emphasizing a family-focused approach to childbirth rather than keeping the mother as the only focus of attention.
This technique emphasizes a more epicurean approach to birthing that aims to help moms achieve the most relaxed state possible during the birth. These techniques aim to reduce discomfort and apprehension and even help the mother deal with stressful situations after the baby is born. It avoids the use of drugs or medication and instead focuses on the mother’s mental state through neurological training exercises.
When should you take a class?
During the first and second trimesters, new moms should take ‘early bird’ classes that center around diet, exercise, sex, and fetal growth. These allow the mother to slowly ease into the pregnancy process and help them get their body ready for birth down the line. However, there are also 4-10 weeklong prep classes that moms usually take in the last couple of months of their pregnancy which focus more directly on going into labor, contractions, delivery, and post-natal care for the mom. Frankly, it is never too early in your pregnancy process to take these classes, but most experts believe that it is best if you enroll during month 6 or 7 of the pregnancy process.
Even if this is the mother’s 2nd or 3rd child, it still is worthwhile to investigate some childbirth class options. No delivery is the same and even those who have had ample natal experience can benefit from a review of some birthing techniques. It's also true that new research often emerges during the time between the mother’s 1st and 2nd pregnancy so it may always be great to learn as much as possible to make the 2nd time smoother than the first.
At the end of the day though, these prep courses can only go so far in preparing women for the birth of their child. But it is always best to be as prepared as possible to make sure you feel ready for such a seminal moment in your life.