So here it comes the biggest day of your life. How will you prepare? Class, books, the internet? Or will you just wing it? According to the 2005 Listening to Mothers IIsurvey found that only 37% of women took a class to learn more about the birth experience. There is often a misperception that taking a birth class means you are planning to birth in a yurtor without the use of pain medication. In reality educating yourself prior to your baby's arrival could be the key to a smoother all round delivery, a shorter labor, or simply a more informed birth. Education should be the first stop on a woman's journey to motherhood.In Maryland there are a wide variety of childbirth education alternatives. But the question remains which one is the best fit for you.
TIMING - The best time to start a birthing class is in the 3rd trimester. I suggest researching and registering for class in your second trimester with the goal of completing class about 1-2 months before your due date. However be sure to take into account how long the course runs, and calculate for any vacations or work schedules that may interfere during that time frame.
LENGTH - How many classes can you commit to 2, 4, 6, 8? What days are you and your partner able to make it to a birth class? Are weeknights or weekends better for you? Do you need to schedule a private birthing class? Would you rather gather more information in one day-long session or have the information provided in shorter 2 hour sessions? Know what your options are and be honest about the time you are able to commit to a course. Classes should be fun. After your first class you and your partner should have a sense of relief, you should look forward to returning!
STYLE - There are many different styles of childbirth education classes. Classes range from very brief two hour hospital classes to 12 session courses. Finding the right style is very important. Each class will have its own "flavor", but for most new parents finding a class grounded on evidence based information will allow them to participate most fully in their birth experience. Be sure to find a class that offers a wide variety of coping methods. Regardless of what you intend to be your go-to way of dealing with labor many moms find that a variety of comfort measures serve them best. Do not limit yourself to just one coping methodology!
LOCATION - Taking a class in the hospital is a very popular choice. I began my career as a childbirth educator in a top Baltimore hospital. I was honest when my new students walked into class on the first night, "I am not a typical hospital childbirth educator, you will be taught a natural childbirth class that will cover all the details." The majority of hospital classes operate with a curriculum that focuses on just the basics and highlights the typical pattern of procedures for that venue. Hospital classes are also predictably larger in size than independent classes. Hospital classes however tend to offer more date choices and can be cheaper than independently taught classes. If you are planning to research and register for an out-of-hospital childbirth class you can look forward to a limited class size in a more personable setting, facilitating conversations and personalized instructor attention. Independently run childbirth education also instructs on all of your choices, not just those preferred at your birth location.
When you are ready to find a childbirth class contact the instructor*. Talk to them. Ask them questions about their curriculum. Ask how the birth class is run. Discover what comfort measures you should expect to learn. Find reviews on Google Places, Facebook, ask for references, etc. This may be one of the most important classes you ever take, you should trust and ENJOY our instructor. You deserve to love your birthing class, to enjoy the people you meet there, and to get as much out of class as you can. *(may not be possible with hospital based classes).
Declercq, E. R., Sakala, C., Corry, M. P., & Applebaum S. (2006). "Listening to mothers II: Report of the second national U.S. survey of women’s childbearing experiences." New York: Childbirth Connection.
Morton, Christine H. PhD. Clarissa Hsu, PhD. "Contemporary Dilemmas in American Childbirth Education: Findings From a Comparative Ethnographic Study" Journal of Perinatal Education, 16(4), 25–37.