All pregnant women have one thing in common whether it is their first birth or fifth and this is some sense of anxiety about labor and delivery. This is because so much of it is unknown. And if you’re here you are asking yourself, are birth classes necessary? We are here to explain exactly why we find childbirth classes to be so important and what you learn in birthing classes. While you are busy preparing everything in your home and taking care of yourself physically and mentally throughout your pregnancy there is always this thought in the back of your mind surrounding childbirth. The difference can be that after taking a birthing class, your mind will think of it with greater confidence and ease.
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Are Birth Classes Necessary?
Trina, Cole and I collaborated on this article because we have three unique viewpoints around childbirth classes. Patrick and I took a variety of classes from labor readiness, to newborn basics, and Trina, who moved back to the states from Germany 6 weeks before L’s due date didn’t have the time to take any. I learned what classes are necessary, what I would have done differently, and how I could have taken classes more relevant to me and my birth wishes. Because Trina didn’t have time to take one and gave birth first, she weighed in on how she might have benefited from taking classes beforehand and also what would not have changed. Cole offers the unique perspective of a Dad who also did not take part in any childbirth classes and discusses why he thinks they may have been helpful to him in supporting Trina. The bottom line is, we all see them as a huge benefit, but that doing them in person may not be the best route to take. For example, if you are abroad, as was the case was for Trina and Cole, or want to take a class whose expertise is mainly in a different country, which was the case for me, then online is the perfect route. Online childbirth classes are the perfect way to take a class tailored to your unique needs, complete on your own schedule, and ensure that you and your partner can do it together if that is what’s important to you.
Alli’s Point of View:
My Experience with Birthing Classes
Patrick and I took not one, not two, but essentially three different childbirth-type classes throughout my pregnancy with N. On the whole, I am definitely a proponent of childbirth classes and think that the more knowledge you have going into your birth, the calmer and more confident you will feel. Knowing that my partner was also involved in these classes helped me feel more “ready” for labor. I really believe that education is one of your best tools towards preparing for not only the birth that you want but also ensuring that you are familiar with the many possible scenarios and outcomes related to birth. I wish that I had better researched the options that existed because I would have benefited from taking a class specifically geared towards pain management for the goal of a natural birth. I really wish that I had done at least one of the three classes online so that it would have been easier to retain information and watch and enjoy them with Pat, who wasn’t exactly thrilled about attending classes in person two nights a week.
What Do You Learn in Birthing Classes?
The class that was the most beneficial in terms of truly educating us was the labor readiness class that we took at the hospital where I gave birth. This class covered all of the big points associated with labor and delivery like how to track contractions, when to go to the hospital, an overview of different pain interventions, and what to expect from the whole process. We learned about the various positions the baby might be in and what that means for birth. We learned about the different pain management strategies that exist like hydrotherapy and birthing balls. We learned about what to expect in terms of fetal monitoring during labor, what might prevent me from being mobile throughout my labor, how the nurses would be checking dilation, possible procedures and more. We were informed about the decisions we would need to make about our new baby upon her birth and were made aware of the different scenarios we should plan for.
I did hope that this class was going to give more in the way of natural pain-management strategies, but we only covered that in one out of the five classes, and it was naturally the one that Pat couldn’t make attend. Cut to all the couples practicing breathing exercises and massage and me partnered with the (very kind) instructor. Not so awesome. Why didn’t I realize that you could do these classes online? This would have been a much better option for Patrick and I. He would have had a better attitude towards the whole thing and we could have rewatched and revisited important or confusing points before deliver. Hilary, a labor and delivery nurse, created an Online Prenatal Course that covers everything that was in my in-person childbirth class plus even more! What I especially love about her class are the numerous couple discussion questions at the end of every single lesson. This will really get you and your partner talking about the content and also about your future goals, strengths, and potential challenges as parents. And you can be sure you won’t be the lone mama practicing contraction counting with the instructor. For more information read my full review of the Online Prenatal Class for Couples.
What I Didn’t Learn in my Birthing Class
As I mentioned above, because I took a very general labor readiness course (which I do think is important for anyone planning to birth in a hospital) I didn’t get the natural pain management strategies I was hoping for. Since having my baby, I have done a lot more research and reading about natural birth because it is a goal I have for my next birth. Through all this reading I learned about hypnobirthing. Hypnobirthing is a program that is popular world-wide and is gaining popularity in the states because of its positive reviews and the growing desire for natural births here in the US. Hypnobirthing aims to change your entire mindset about birth to be more positive. It equips you with a variety tools from breathing to meditation and visualization to empower you through your birth. Hypnobirthing educates you on your body’s functions and abilities through labor and deliver. If you are interested in learning more about hypnobirthing, check out my full review of the Hypnobubs Online Hypnobirthing Class.
Trina’s Point of View
I had an opposite experience as Alli, we were living in Germany for the year I was pregnant with L. Our flight back to the states was 6 weeks before L’s due date. This meant we had 6 weeks to fly home, move our belongings out of storage, unpack our household, get set up with our midwives, and sign up for a birth center for delivery, and oh buy things for baby.
I also defended my PhD (as you can see in the picture below) when I flew back to the States, which was a big priority to finish before baby arrived. If baby had come early, I have no idea what we would have done but thankfully, I went into labor on L’s due date. With everything on our to-do list, finishing my PhD, unpacking so we had a functioning kitchen, and buying baby essentials, traditional birth classes just weren’t feasible for us to fit into the schedule.
How I think a birth class would have helped me?
To prepare for birth, I did what I do best. I researched the most important medical wishes, so long as there were no complications, I knew my medical wishes were sound. For example, I knew I wanted to have delayed cord clamping because 1/3 of baby’s blood is housed in the cord at time of delivery and ensuring baby gets this blood decreases chances of anemia over their whole life and delivers baby with an amazing boost of stem cells. Additionally, I wanted to breastfeed in the first hour because it lowers infant mortality by 50%.
Outside of those wishes, I thought a natural birth had its benefits and I liked the idea of not using unnecessary medications. The issue between my wishes here and my actual delivery is that I was absolutely not prepared. I had no tools to utilize besides “dealing with the pain” and the few options the birth center had (tub and shower). I ended up trying nitrous oxide and then finally an epidural. I also think birth classes would have prepped me in preparing for the long 22 hour labor that I did have. I might have been okay if my labor was short but that wasn’t in the cards.
The biggest reason I would have taken a birth class if we could have done it differently is that even if I ended up getting an epidural again, having more tools would have helped me to not be so EXHAUSTED by the end. That exhaustion was so hard because after L was born, I didn’t really get to recover. Like all new moms, I had a newborn to take care of. While I know it is impossible to control everything and each birth is unique, I know for certain having tools to better prepare myself or even my partner for that big day would have allowed me to enjoy the arrival of my baby more. Medical staff are there to support you in a medical way. I was so tired that it is hard for me to even remember all of it (Thankfully we live in the digital age of photography!). For birth, you need so much more than that and now knowing that, I will prepare so differently for the next.
What specific birth class would I be interested in?
When considering a birth class, I would focus on how well their course matches my overall goal. My overall goal would be to have more tools at my disposal to stay more rested, to help labor progress faster, and also to train me to be in the right mind set. Hypnobirthing is something I have since learned about and I think that it will really help me go into my next labor with more tools for a natural childbirth and a better frame of mind as opposed to just bearing down and dealing with the pain which became so utterly exhausting.
What pre-birth education is overlooked by preparing moms?
Another big change that happens immediately after birth is that if you plan to breastfeed, those first few days and weeks are critical to your milk supply. Without a solid foundation of knowledge in breastfeeding, you could without knowing it, hurt your supply. You and your newborn are trying to learn breastfeeding together and it can be challenging especially if baby is colic or has an issue like acid reflux that causes pain for baby when they nurse. You will most likely have a lactation consultant at the hospital who can hopefully spend a lot of time with you. But if not, I do not want you to be on your own. Arm yourself now with breastfeeding knowledge because it’s so worth it.
One resource I found way too late was an online breastfeeding course by Cindy and Jana, two registered Lactation Consultants. The course, entitled Simply Breastfeeding, does a great job at preparing women with foundational knowledge so they can start breastfeeding off on the right foot and prevent common issues from occurring. For more info on why I wish I knew about this course before L, check out my Simply Breastfeeding review.
When I look back, even though I said I was going to quit many times, breastfeeding has provided some of my favorite bonding times with my child. It also becomes easier than bottles after overcoming the steep learning curve.
Cole’s point of view
Our daughter’s birth was one of the happiest days of my life, but it was also hands-down the most stressful day of my life. Trina really wanted to avoid having an epidural and I wanted to support her in this goal. As she mentioned above, due to our situation moving back home from Germany, we did not have the opportunity to take a childbirth class, either online or in-person. So, when I was tasked with this goal of helping Trina avoid an epidural, I had zero tools at my disposal. Now of course, the nurses showed me some ways that I could help her relieve pressure and different massage techniques to reduce pain, but because it was my first time encountering these, I didn’t know how to troubleshoot or really do them well.
Now that we are expecting again, I really look forward to getting some actual preparation under my belt either during an in-person or online class. While we have been through it before, we were really just thrown into the fire and did whatever we had to survive. I’d like to be more prepared for this next birth. One online course I came across that I’ve really enjoyed is Supporting Her. As the title implies, it’s a childbirth class that’s really focused on how the dad-to-be can support their partner through labor and delivery. In addition to providing really great information on how I can support Trina through labor and delivery, the course is hilarious! Specifically, the portion where they cover what men should NOT say to their partner during childbirth. Alli wrote a full Supporting Her review as well if you’d like to check that out.
I can’t really compare in-person classes to online classes but I can definitely see where Alli’s husband Patrick was coming from. The last thing I’d want to do after a work day would be to drive way out of the way and do a birth class. Prepping with online classes has been completely tolerable, and dare I say enjoyable, as I can do them on my own time and in the comfort of our home.
Overall, from a dad’s perspective I would say the answer to the question, “are birth classes necessary?” would be yes. Not necessary in the sense that you can’t successfully have a baby without them (Trina did, and mammals have been birthing offspring without courses for millions of years), but necessary in the sense that they make both parents drastically more prepared for childbirth.
Now that you have more information of why birthing classes are necessary, what you can expect to learn (and not) you can make an informed decision about enrolling in a childbirth class that is going to best fit your needs and birth wishes. To learn more about why I love the idea of online childbirth classes, read all about Four Online Childbirth Classes that fulfill a variety of different needs for birthing mamas and their partners.
Preparing for birth includes so many different aspects of your life! Read my article about packing the perfect Hospital Bag and Preparing your Home for Birth.
Create a birth plan that encompasses so much more than what the document the hospital gives you by using Trina’s 3 Part Birth Plan.
Thinking about how you will feed your precious new baby when they arrive? Trina’s Complete Guide to Breastfeeding will get you started on the right foot.
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