These six strategies can help you get the most out of childbirth classes so you feel calm and confident during your pregnancy and the birth process.
The whole idea of taking childbirth education classes is to reduce the stress of having a baby. You’ll gain knowledge—and confidence—about everything from the first signs of labor and when to go to the hospital to how to manage pain once you get there. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life. But anxiety can build if a childbirth class morphs into information overload or makes you feel pressured to have a certain kind of birth.
Here’s how to keep your childbirth education classes a source of strength, not stress.
Look for a childbirth education class that aims to help you make choices. Labor and delivery can unfold in many different ways, and you won’t really know how you feel about many aspects until you’re there. The goal of good childbirth education classes is to help you make informed choices when the time comes. It shouldn’t be to present information as if there’s only one “right” way to deliver a baby—whether it’s natural childbirth, epidural, VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), or C-section.
A balanced class should, for example, teach about non-pharmacological pain relief (natural childbirth) as well as the risks and benefits of pharmacological pain relief (such as epidurals). In addition to presenting childbirth options, it should guide you on how to communicate with birth aides about pain relief.
If you don’t like the first childbirth class, try another. Don’t write off the whole experience of childbirth education classes if one makes you feel uncomfortable. There are many different childbirth methods and philosophies, from Lamaze and Bradley to active birthing and hybrids. Ask friends about childbirth classes they’ve taken. Get suggestions from your doctor, midwife, or doula.
Have an open mind—and ask tough questions. A good teacher should welcome curiosity and a free exchange of ideas. Ask lots of “why” questions. Don’t be shy about asking for the evidence behind the information presented. Above all, persist until you get answers you’re sure you understand.
Listen and learn, but don’t cram like there’s a test at the end. Delivering your baby isn’t the final exam. No amount of memorizing childbirth facts will control the outcome. So use the information and advice in childbirth education classes to guide your birth plan without seeing it as a magic path to the perfect delivery.
If your childbirth education class is spread out over several weeks, do try to attend every session so you don’t miss anything. And sure, pay attention, but you can skip staying up late to memorize your notes.
Tune out what makes you really uncomfortable. An open mind is helpful because knowledge really is power when it comes to having a baby. At the same time, some birth attendants believe that scary stories and disturbing images can make labor more stressful and painful. While good childbirth educators avoid scary talk, your classmates or partner might go there. If it happens, walk away or end the conversation.
Go for the people as much as for the information. Along with learning about childbirth, this focused time is a chance to bond with your partner and/or birth partner. You’ll also meet other moms at the same point in life. Opportunities to talk to other women about childbirth can be a stress reducer.