One of the best things you can do before giving birth is attend a childbirth course. These classes will give you and your partner a lot of information and support to help you during labor and birth. You'll get to meet other pregnant couples and share advice and concerns with them. And taking part in a childbirth course will increase your confidence as you face the big event.
Differences Among Courses
Not all childbirth courses are created equal. Some are primarily lectures and merely inform you about what you can expect when you go to the hospital for delivery. Others are more interactive. Interactive courses are kept small, usually with no more than 10 couples; this allows for one-on-one instruction in practicing comfort measures and creates a more intimate atmosphere in which to share advice and concerns. Some courses discuss the choices available to you in terms of pain relief, optional procedures (such as episiotomy), and where to deliver (at home, in a hospital, or in a birthing center). Be an inquisitive consumer as you look for a course; don't choose one just because it's held at your hospital or close by.
What a Good Course Offers
Here are things you should look for when shopping around:
- At least 12 hours of instruction, with classes spread out over several days or weeks;
- An emphasis on practicing pain management skills (relaxation, positioning, massage, breathing) for you, and labor support for your partner;
- Small classes, with no more than 10 to 12 couples;
- A curriculum that supports birth as normal and natural and empowers couples to make informed choices;
- Class content that includes labor, birth, early postpartum (the time right after the baby is born), the newborn, breastfeeding, and adjusting to parenthood. Other topics should include medical procedures (such as fetal monitoring and episiotomy), medication, anesthesia, communication skills, and healthy lifestyles;
- Time for questions and discussion;
- An instructor who's a nationally certified childbirth educator. Lamaze International and International Childbirth Education Association (ICEA) both certify.
The cost of a childbirth course varies. Some hospitals do not charge at all and incorporate the course into their basic obstetrical package for in-patients. If there is a charge, it may run anywhere from $35 to $75, depending upon the length of each class and the number of classes.
To learn more about childbirth courses and to find one in your area, visit the Web sites of Lamaze International and the ICEA.
For more information on the pain management techniques you might learn in a childbirth course, see our article on Comfort Measures. You might also learn special skills and exercises; to read more about these, see Life Skills.