If you’re pregnant with your first child, no matter how calm you try to be, the thought of actually giving birth
may be causing you some anxiety. One of the ways to ease that anxiety is to take a childbirth class. These classes not only provide you with facts (vs. the unknown scenarios you may have playing in your head,) but they will also provide you with a network of other couples who are going through the same thing that you are; and that, in and of itself, will reduce your anxiety.
Lamaze is the most well known “name” in the birthing class game. But there are many, many other classes. Bradley method classes, prepared childbirth, natural childbirth, underwater childbirth, hypnobirth… the list goes on. How do you know which one might be the most helpful?
First and foremost, it’s a matter of personal preference. What is your style? Do you want to birth at home, with a midwife? In a hospital with plenty of drugs available? Think about how you picture your labor, and let that guide you. You can also ask the people you trust… ask your OB, your hospital birthing center, your friends. Maybe even try a few different classes; not every approach will suit you. And some people will just get more out of a birthing class than others. But, don’t worry too much about it, this is a magical time. Do what feels natural and makes you feel calm, but do make sure your class is run by an experienced, competent, and trained medical professional, usually an R.N.
Some of the things you’ll learn in a typical birthing class (aside from breathing) are:
- Pain management
- What your options might be for a home birth
- What a Doula does
- What a Midwife does
- What an epidural is
- What an episiotomy is
- How to tell when you are “in” labor
- What to expect during labor and delivery
- What a birth plan is and how to prepare your own plan
You will be surprised by how satisfying it is to be in a class with other first time parents going through the exact same thing that you are at the exact same time. You might be surprised to find that there are other soon to be parents that are just as overwhelmed as you are. It is very common to create bonds with couples you meet in your birthing class that last for years to come, because the friendships are forged in this unique time you share.
Birthing classes are not just about learning how to “breathe” during labor. Although most people think that the Lamaze and Bradley classes are about breathing techniques, they are really about instilling calmness and confidence: giving you a set of tools to use to help you deal with the unknown: labor.
In fact, once you’re actually in labor, you might forget a lot of what you learned in your birthing class. I know I couldn’t remember a thing about breathing techniques, once I was actually giving birth. And, honestly, it didn’t matter. I did remember how to keep myself calm, to focus on things other than the contractions, etc. It’s possible that the most important tidbit of information that I learned in my birthing class was for my husband to make sure that he was chewing gum while he was talking to me during labor, so that his breath was minty fresh as he was “encouraging” me inches from my face!
No matter what you actually remember on the day, the class is a time to bond with your partner; include them in a part of the pregnancy that is, by design, mostly focused on you, and to let go of some of the anxiety that comes with “not knowing.” I don’t remember the specifics of the classes my husband and I took, but I do remember the experience of doing them together, and I wouldn’t give up those memories for anything.
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