Different Childbirth Classes and What They Offer
by Rebecca Guez
Childbirth is an emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental rollercoaster. And if it is your first time, it is unlike anything you have experienced before. Whether you are planning for a natural birth or a C-section, childbirth is a deeply personal and vulnerable experience. It is important to prepare for the experience so that you can know all of your options and be clear about what is important to you. There are a wide variety of childbirth classes to choose from below. As you look to choose one of them, some key questions/things to keep in mind which can help guide you are:
- It is important to educate yourself not only on labor and delivery but on pregnancy and postpartum.
- Think about who YOU would like to have with you as you labor and deliver.
- Whether you would like to try to deliver naturally or are you planning on asking for medication.
- How much you are willing to pay for your class.
- Consider how many other couples will be in the class.
- How often the class meets and for how long so that you can be sure you can fully commit and take advantage of it.
Different Birth Classes and What They Offer
There are childbirth classes offered both in-person and online, each with different techniques and philosophies so that you can choose which one speaks to you. Below is a comprehensive list of your options, and some help with choosing which one might fit you best.
In-Person Childbirth Classes
The Lamaze Technique
The Lamaze technique may be one of the most well-known child birthing techniques. It is centered around the philosophy that each mother knows what is best for her body and her baby. The technique guides mothers to give birth with confidence.
The Lamaze Technique offers “Six Healthy Birth Practices”:
- Let labor begin on its own.
- Keep walking, moving, and changing positions during labor.
- Have a support person with you during labor; whether that be a partner, friend, another loved one, or a doula.
- Unless medically necessary they do not recommend interventions.
- Listen to your own body’s urge to push and try to give birth upright or in a “gravity-neutral” position.
- Following the birth, keep the mother and baby together.
Lamaze classes can also teach mothers breathing and relaxation techniques, and the ins and outs of the birthing process, including relaxation and massage to help with the pain. It also teaches labor support, how to make educated decisions through your birthing process, and how to communicate with your doctors and nurses. You will also learn about breastfeeding and the early postpartum period.
There are many options for different Lamaze classes. So you will want to search for a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator in your area to get in touch with to help you find what will work best for you. Find a Lamaze class near you.
The International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA)
ICEA does not emphasize any particular approach to childbirth. Their philosophy is training birth professionals who believe in freedom to make decisions based on knowledge of alternatives in family-centered maternity and newborn care.
Their core values are:
- Compassion: We believe approaching maternity care with compassion and a nurturing spirit improves birth outcomes for all families.
- Collaboration: We practice a culture of collaboration based on the knowledge that mindful engagement with diverse groups advances positive, family-centered maternity care.
- Choice: We support freedom of choice by training professionals committed to empowering expectant families through informed decision making.
Educators who are certified through ICEA typically teach classes in hospitals or in local pregnancy care centers and boutiques. Their classes offer general information about the process of labor, birth, and immediate postpartum. They do cover natural childbirth, various coping techniques to handle the pain of labor and birth, and they present the pain relief options available as well as C-sections. Find an ICEA instructor near you.
The Bradley Method
The Bradley Method is suitable for mothers who would like to have their partner be their labor support person. The course trains not only the mother but also the partner in-depth, as well as for those who would prefer not to have any medication. It is a 12-week course because The Bradley Method explains that it takes time to properly prepare for giving birth in order to build confidence, stamina, and to practice.
After going through The Bradley Method you will gain:
- Pregnancy education including; nutrition, exercise, the changes happening to your body, and discomforts and how to handle them naturally.
- Training for the coach—the role of the partner throughout pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum care.
- How to create a birth plan—and recognize when interventions or changes need to be made and how to cope with them if they come up during labor and delivery.
- The stages of labor and natural relaxation techniques like self-awareness, deep breathing techniques, and massage as you go through labor.
- A little bit about postpartum.
Find The Bradley Method® near you.
Hypnobirthing, also known as The Mongan Method was founded on the concept “when you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.” It emphasizes that fear, tension, and severe pain don’t have to be a part of labor. Hypnobirthing can be a method of choice for women who are intent on giving birth naturally.
When taking Hypnobirthing classes, you will learn visualization techniques, positive affirmations, and meditation to help remain calm rather than fall into the “fight, flight, or freeze” instinct when you are giving birth and experiencing new feelings within your physical body as well as emotionally. Using this method, you are fully awake throughout labor and delivery, but your body will be able to naturally relax so that endorphins can replace the stress hormones that usually cause pain. HypnoBirthing® teaches women to rephrase words with a negative connotation (like “pain” and “contraction”), and instead encourage them to use the terms “sensation” and “surge.”
The course consists of five, 2.5 hour-long sessions:
- “setting the stage”
- “pre-birth and preparing your mind and body”
- “self-hypnosis visualization and advanced deepening”
- “overview and summary of childbirth”
- “birthing—the final act and bonding”
In addition to this class time, Hypnobirthing classes require a lot of independent studying and preparation for giving birth outside of the class. It is recommended to listen to the tracks every day.
Find a Hypnobirthing Childbirth Educator near you.
Another similar class series to HypnoBirthing is Hypnobabies, however, there are some differences. They both believe that birth is usually a healthy, normal event and in normal birth, there does not always have to be pain.
Hypnobabies was created by Kerry Tushhoff (whom we have had on our podcast) who originally was a HypnoBirthing instructor. Kerry felt that the course was missing key information so she created Hypnobabies. With Hypnobabies, they use a hypno-anesthesia technique (medical hypnosis, like what people have used for surgeries) such as eye-open hypnosis with the finger-drop technique. They offer more scripts and tracks to listen to and provide more information on how to handle the unexpected, such as back labor or what to do if you get out of self-hypnosis. They do offer a home study option, but their in-person classes with an instructor are ideal. Hypnobabies classes are longer than HypnoBirthing classes—there are six 3-hour classes compared to five 2.5-hour HypnoBirthing classes. For more information about Hypnobabies, read our article here and look here to find a Hypnobabies Certified Educator.
Birthing From Within
Birthing from Within offers a holistic approach to childbirth teaching mothers to give ”birth-in-awareness” without an end goal of achieving a specific birth outcome. It recognizes that there are many different medical opinions and views around pregnancy, birth, and postpartum care so that it can be confusing for parents to navigate.
Birthing from Within offers a very well rounded and thorough education of the birth process. Each parent can expect to be informed and supported to explore what is important to them, develop a pain coping mechanism, and a connection with your partner or support person, and with yourself. All of this enables each mother to prepare for birth “as a rite of passage” by making well-informed decisions about their own experience, and face the unknown with courage and self-love.
Birthing from Within provides information about natural births as well as information about C-sections, epidurals, and other interventions.
The Birthing from Within program offers you as well as your birth partner a mentor to “help you look within to find your own answers and wisdom,” and work with you and what you believe to figure out what is best for you. This program offers private classes for pregnant parents, group and online birth preparation classes, and prenatal appointments with doulas. They also offer birth story processing sessions, retreats for parents, postpartum parent groups, and ritual and ceremony to acknowledge and celebrate your transformation.
Find a Birthing From Within class near you.
The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique is a general technique used to improve the quality of life for anyone with physical pain. It is also adapted to support both mothers who are planning on going through natural labor and delivery as well as ones who are having a scheduled C-section.
The Alexander Technique is a re-education of how we exert physical, emotional, and mental energy through our movements so that we can move without wasting our energy. This allows us to move more easily, fluidly, and with less tension through labor and delivery. The Alexander Technique teaches mothers how to move, sit, stand, breathe, and lie down with only the necessary amount of exertion. This then allows for the conservation of overall energy. It also teaches mothers correct posture, and how to release unnecessary tension.
The class is several weeks long and uses birthing balls, yoga mats, and other exercise props to help prepare the mother’s body in a physical way for labor and delivery.
Find a teacher of The Alexander Technique near you.
Online Childbirth Classes
In addition to in-person childbirth classes and educators offered, there are several online classes you can choose from as well including:
Remember that the most important is that you choose a childbirth class that feels right to YOU!