We are living in the information age, and pregnancy web sites (such as this one!), books, TV shows and movie’s abound – as well as home-study or online courses in childbirth education. It’s no wonder that attendance at childbirth classes is waning and fewer couples are attending classes. My doula clients often ask me if I think they need to take a childbirth class and, as in most things, my answer is different depending on their situation and needs.
There are benefits of a childbirth class that are not reproducible through any form of passive information (where the content is provided and you, the receiver, come to and engage the material alone). These benefits are significant, and I urge you to carefully consider their value before you decide to forgo local childbirth classes. On the flip side, classes are not all the same and choosing a high quality class, if one is available, is essential. This article will help you determine if you need to take a childbirth class. If you decide that one would be beneficial for you, another article will help you choose a childbirth class that will be worth its weight in gold.
The benefits of a high quality childbirth class
Childbirth classes provide a relationship
Your childbirth instructor will become someone you can reach out to with specific concerns during, between, and after classes as you prepare. More importantly, your instructor can be someone you reach out to if you have questions or need a community referral after your baby is born.
Childbirth classes provide community
One of the major contributors to postpartum blues and preventable postpartum depression is isolation and a sense that you are the only person who has the feelings, desires, struggles, or problems you are facing. Taking a childbirth class gives you the opportunity to hear others speak. In the process, you gain an awareness of your commonalities. You may capitalize on the opportunity to create community for yourself at a childbirth class by asking another attendee to meet at a coffee shop or for a walk, or by hosting a “mock-tail” party for the class. Many couples creating lasting friendships with people they meet at their childbirth class.
Childbirth classes feed more than just your brain
Information, in the right amounts, is empowering. But sound information, given with a hug and a reassuring face that communicates that all is normal indeed, has a whole lot more value, especially during uncertain times of change. A class can provide this human component that is so important and lacking as we become a more technological society.
Childbirth classes can provide increased perception of your need or solution
As a childbirth instructor, I regularly field questions from class attendants with an answer that includes information related to their question and also the non-verbal cues they present. For example, someone may ask, “How do I hold a baby?” This is a great question which I will answer with some guidelines for holding babies and some information about how they are affected by a state of calm or distress. In addition, if I have noticed that for this particular couple, one parent seems to be very nervous about the baby and the other keeps sharing stories out of their years of experience with baby care, I will also include some evidence-based information about how babies thrive with different styles of care from their two parents and the value of doing things your own way. Perhaps I’ll even venture into a common relationship pitfall where one parent becomes the “gatekeeper” to the baby because they know “the right way” to do everything. I’ll encourage a sincere understanding of the value of letting each parent work out their own style. Do you see how I was just able to serve this family in a way that holds immeasurably more value than a great article on “How to hold a baby” would have provided?
Childbirth classes provide local application
The policies, routine proceedures, and personality style of your local hospital, birth center, or midwives has a large impact on how to best promote a low-interventive, positive, or healthy birth. A local childbirth educator can give you a clear understanding of how to promote your goals and values in your specific setting.
Childbirth classes help you carve out time
Sometimes I tell couples that the most valuable part of their childbirth class is the drive there and the drive home. Couples need a time to talk about birth-related feelings, hopes, plans, and preparations. Childbirth class will give you something to talk about that uncovered your shared, and not shared, expectations. Life is so busy, and the act of committing to class time is an important statement of prioritization. Take time to linger over your response to each class. If you don’t take a class, it is imperative that you schedule date nights during which you pay attention to the experience of pregnancy and your thoughts about birth, postpartum, raising a baby, and becoming parents.
Childbirth classes have unique value
With these benefits in mind, I urge nearly everyone not to take a childbirth class, but to take an excellent childbirth class. It is truly a different experience than you can gain through books and web sites, and hopefully one that will not only provide you with excellent and locally relevant information, but an experience where you feel nurtured and listened too as well.
That being said, it can be difficult to find a great childbirth class. There are a lot of dry classes out there that do little more than regurgitate information or prepare you for what to expect from your local hospital. Learning what to expect at your hospital is important, but a good tour of the facility or a one-night class covering the routine procedures and pain management options should suffice. This is a far cry from comprehensive childbirth preparation that increases your readiness for birth. Read How to Find a Great Childbirth Class for tips on finding a fabulous class for you.