Facts you should know about childbirth class options

Many women and couples desire to take part in formal classes as part of their birthing plan. While a number of class formats and emphasis is available, what they have in common is that they all prepare a mother for giving birth. Classes may cover techniques for non-drug pain management as well as information about labor and delivery. Childbirth classes can also teach expectant women what to expect in the postpartum period. In addition, information regarding breastfeeding is commonly presented.

While classes focused on birthing techniques commonly start around the seventh month of pregnancy, other types of classes may start in early pregnancy. Your health care professional can help you decide when and if a childbirth class is a good option for you. Classes can be held at hospitals, community centers, health care practitioners' offices or other settings. Video or book versions of classes are also available.

The following is a brief overview of some of the most well-known childbirth class options in the United States.

What is the Lamaze technique?

The Lamaze technique is one of the best known methods, and one of the most commonly used childbirth class method in the United States. Lamaze classes are designed to inform women about their options for support during the birth process. The Lamaze program does not encourage or discourage the use of medications and medical interventions during the birth process. Women are presented with information and options to make the decision that is best for her.

Some of the topics covered in Lamaze technique classes include:

  • The progress of normal labor
  • The delivery and postpartum period
  • Pain relief techniques such as massage and relaxation methods
  • Other kinds of support during labor
  • Communication
  • Breastfeeding
  • Medical procedures that may be recommended
  • Living a healthy lifestyle

Lamaze classes are generally taught in small groups of up to 12 couples. Typically, there is at least 12 hours of instruction time.

Labor and Delivery

Every woman's experience is unique. Below are typical guidelines that will help you understand what to expect during labor and delivery.

  • Normal labor can begin three weeks prior to the anticipated due date up until two weeks afterwards. There is no way to precisely predict when labor will begin.
  • In the first stage of labor the cervix dilates and effaces (thins out). Once contractions begin, they usually increase in strength, duration, and frequency.
  • The second stage of labor begins when the cervix is completely (10 centimeters) dilated. It ends when, following expulsive efforts (pushing) by the mother, the infant is delivered.
  • During the third stage of labor, the placenta and membranes are delivered.
  • There are a number of methods for monitoring the fetus that may be used during labor.
  • Options for pain control during labor include breathing exercises, imagery, relaxation techniques, medications, and regional anesthesia.

What is the Bradley Method?

The Bradley method is also known as husband-coached childbirth. It is a process that prepares a woman to give birth without the use of pain control medications. It also prepares the woman's partner to be an effective birth coach. The method does include preparation for problems or unexpected situations like unplanned Cesarean section delivery. The course is taught over 12 sessions. Topics covered in the classes include:

  • Healthy lifestyle choices
  • Relaxation techniques for use during labor
  • "Rehearsals" for labor
  • Postpartum care
  • Breastfeeding
  • Training for the partner in coaching techniques
  • Ways to avoid a Cesarean section (C-section)

What is the Alexander Technique?

The Alexander Technique is a strategy for improving movement, balance, coordination, and flexibility. This technique is used by many individuals -- not just pregnant women. In expectant women it may be used to increase the mother's comfort during pregnancy, increase the effectiveness of pushing, lessen any discomfort associated with nursing, and assist the overall recovery from childbirth. Some pregnant women choose to take weekly lessons in the technique throughout their pregnancy.

What is HypnoBirthing?

HypnoBirthing is a method that is based on self-hypnosis techniques to achieve a healthy and natural birth process. It is sometimes referred to as the Morgan method. Pre-birth parenting and the consciousness of the unborn baby are among the topics covered in the training sessions. It is commonly given in a series of four or five class sessions of 2 ½ to 3 hours each.

SLIDESHOW

Stages of Pregnancy: Week by Week See Slideshow

10 questions to ask when choosing a childbirth class

Asking the following questions may help women decide on a childbirth class. There are no right or wrong answers. Thinking about these issues may help you clarify your own interests and goals.

  1. When and where does the class meet? How many sessions are offered?
  2. Is the class designed for expectant mothers or for couples?
  3. Is there training for the expectant woman's partner? Is this important to you?
  4. What is the cost of the class? Will insurance cover the cost?
  5. How are the teachers trained?
  6. Does the teacher have experience with this type of class?
  7. What is the class size?
  8. What kinds of medical interventions are covered in the class?
  9. Does the class promote natural birth without medications or does the class allow women to choose medical intervention?
  10. Does the class run throughout pregnancy or only in the later stages?

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Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2021
References
Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics & Gynecology

REFERENCE:

"Update on Nonpharmacologic Approaches to Relieve Labor Pain and Prevent Suffering." Medscape.com.