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Pregnancy Class: Do You Need It?

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An OB/GYN weighs in.

couple at lamaze class thinking about the Laker game score

When discussing the subject of pregnancy/childbirth classes, the moms in our office had mixed opinions. Some moms said anything they learned in their infant CPR class was instantly forgotten once they brought their babies home, while others said all you'll need to remember is to "get that epidural!"

So should you or shouldn't you ... and if you do, what class is right for you? Momlogic OB/GYN Dr.Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz says "most people are pretty clueless when it comes to human birth, and classes should help you gain confidence in what you are already capable of doing (having a baby, that is). They teach you the basics of the process and what to expect, help guide and support you and your partner, and give you skills to get through as much of it as you can."

A childbirth class teaches you about labor and birth. By deciding what type of birth you are hoping for, you can decide what class is right for you. Dr. Lenz says the most important aspect of finding a good class is "to locate a reputable and experienced childbirth instructor who is supportive of the environment in which you are planning to deliver." There are a variety of classes you could take:

  1. Lamaze: The goal of Lamaze is to "increase women's confidence in their ability to give birth. Women learn various simple coping strategies including breathing techniques." Lamaze believes that women have a right to give birth free from routine medical interventions, but does not look down upon the use of interventions or pain relief medication.

  2. Bradley Method: The Bradley Method stresses the importance of having a natural childbirth. Classes are extremely personalized and cover everything from nutrition and exercise during pregnancy to postpartum care and breastfeeding. Classes are kept very small.

  3. HypnoBirthing: Hypnobirthing is a less well-known practice, focusing on a relaxed, natural childbirth through self-hypnosis. The method teaches you that, in the absence of fear and tension, or special medical circumstances, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor. It hopes to free parents from the fear of birthing and trust natural instincts.

  4. Infant CPR: Though it's hard to imagine being in the position of having to save our baby's life, babies can choke or have other medical emergencies. A CPR class can be taken at your local Red Cross, hospital or birthing class center. A certified instructor will teach you what to do if your baby is choking or isn't moving or breathing.

Need to find a class? Hospitals offer them, but according to Dr. Lenz, "they teach to the middle and are less personal. If you know you will have an epidural, a hospital class is probably enough. For those seeking to avoid medications and interventions, however, finding a private instructor trained in the Bradley Method is better than taking a hospital class, in my experience."

The most important thing, beyond choosing a method, "is the instructor's attitude, knowledge and open-heartedness," says Dr. Lenz.

Other classes to consider are: C-section classes for those having or considering a cesarean; breastfeeding classes; and infant care. But don't be fooled into thinking the more classes you take, the better off you'll be. 

See Also:

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Amy March 11, 2009, 7:26 AM

I didn’t take a birthing class and I was fine. You do have nurses, midwives, and doctors there to tell you what to do and expect. It’s not like you are going to be delivering all alone, totally clueless. I think that these pregnancy classes are a waste of time. Women have been having babies for years, it comes natural, not something you can really “practice”.

Rachel March 11, 2009, 6:51 PM

I respectfully disagree with Amy. I learned a lot of useful things in my pregnancy class. Not only what to expect during labor, but also how the hospital does things and what to expect from them. They tell you different things that can happen during your labor and different scenarios. It really eased my mind and helped me to feel more prepared. Ultimately, it’s each woman’s choice but it can definitely be helpful. I’m sure it’s even better for those who are going to attempt a natural birth (good luck with that one).

Christy March 11, 2009, 6:59 PM

I agree with Rachel. As first time parents, we loved our pregnancy class and all of the expecting parents we met. In addition to birthing techniques, it was useful to know where to go in the hospital and how to check in.

We even made some good friends with a couple and now have play dates with them.

And calming and breathing techniques during the class are something you can practice.

Earth Mommy March 22, 2009, 7:36 PM

Childbirth can be an experience that you are participating in or something that “happened”. The purpose of childbirth classes are to give you techniques to relax and enjoy childbirth so that it is an experience between you, your partner, and your child. Also natural birth is healthier for all involved if you are able to go without the epidural. Childbirth can be a great memory if you take the time to explore your options and not just go to the hospital and let strangers dictate your first moments with your child.

Sweet Serendipity March 24, 2009, 9:05 AM

I had 3 kiddos au naturel and no PG class. I think that while some may enjoy it and benefit from it, it isn’t necessary to have a peaceful, or successful birthing experience. I read, a lot, while pregnant, talked to other moms and had lots of support from family and friends (thankfully!) and honestly don’t think I would have gotten much more from attending a class.

Erinn April 24, 2009, 12:14 AM

Amy, I think it’s great that you were surrounded by all of that support staff! OB’s, nurses, midwives and doulas (birth attendants) like the ones who helped to you have a wonderful birth experience fill a vital role in our modern society.

Childbirth educators fall into that mix, too, helping those who haven’t witnessed or experienced birth first hand to understand what will happen, and explore the possibilities and options that lay ahead.

Can one have a baby without going to a class? Well, sure. On the other hand, for those that want the preparatory education, I think it’s great that it’s available.

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