Childbirth Classes

Prenatal classes for expectant parents

Education is very important for expectant parents, and a wide range of childbirth classes are available to help you prepare for the arrival of your baby. These range from natural childbirth classes that get you ready for a drug-free delivery to Lamaze classes that instruct you in proper breathing techniques and relaxation methods to use when you go into labor.

While you may have to pay an enrolment fee to attend childbirth classes, free childbirth classes may be available through your local health network. Ask your prenatal caregiver if you need assistance finding resources in your community.


An Overview of Prenatal Classes for Parents-to-Be

Childbirth preparation classes offered by your hospital or community health center will cover the basics of prenatal health, labor and delivery, and skills for new parents. The instructor will explain what is happening to your body, how to recognize signs of labor and what to do if you think you're in labor. She'll tell you what to expect on the big day: how the stages of labor progress, what medical procedures may be performed and why, and what pain relief options will be available to you. You'll also get a chance to practice relaxation techniques and various birth positions that will help you stay as comfortable as possible during labor and delivery. A class at the hospital may also include a tour of the maternity ward and a chance to meet the obstetricians who work there.

These classes through the hospital or health center don't tend to subscribe to any particular philosophy, and they present information mainly from a medical point of view. There are many other options, however. Some parents-to-be may prefer to shop around for a private prenatal class that teaches a specific method, technique or philosophy.

Some of the most popular types of childbirth classes include:

  • Lamaze classes. Initially, Lamaze classes focused primarily on childbirth preparation, particularly on breathing techniques to use during labor. It has expanded since it was first introduced in North America during the 1950s, though, and now covers topics including hydrotherapy, massage techniques, relaxation techniques and optimal body positioning.
  • Bradley Method classes. The Bradley Method is a natural childbirth technique that claims to offer expectant mothers the safest and most reliable way to get through a drug-free delivery. It is a systematized approach to labor management which promotes self-awareness and encourages women to listen to and trust their own bodies.
  • Alexander Technique classes. The Alexander Technique is a way of retraining your mind and body to exert the correct amount of effort for particular physical activities, and it purports to give followers more energy and vitality. It can be specially applied to pregnant women to give them tools to deliver their child with the least possible amount of strain and effort.
  • Natural childbirth classes. Other natural childbirth techniques are taught in classes, some of which encourage women to give birth at home without the aid of a doctor or midwife; others simply focus on avoiding potentially dangerous medications during the delivery. What they all have in common, though, is a philosophy that childbirth is a wondrous event which should be experienced as nature intended. Proponents also hold that natural childbirth enhances the maternal bond, has positive psychological effects and increases the likelihood of successful and sustained breastfeeding.

Whichever type of prenatal class you decide to take, make sure to sign up early. Many of these classes tend to fill up quickly, and it's not the kind of thing you can just take next year!