When you become pregnant you are faced with an entirely new reality.
Questions that have never crossed your mind are now top priority and you typically become a welcome mat for unsolicited advice. Big decisions like: who to have as a care provider or where to have your baby, to smaller considerations such as what stroller to buy, begin to pile up. For most people this is uncharted territory: having a baby doesn’t just “come naturally” to everyone. As doula’s we believe that the more you educate yourself the more of an advocate you can be for yourself. If you know what’s going on during pregnancy and birth, you will likely have a stronger opinion regarding what you are okay and not okay with, and one great option to prepare yourself for an upcoming birth and life with a new baby is to join a childbirth education class.
Now-a-days there are countless types of classes offered. It can be daunting just trying to choose the class that feels right for you. We’re hoping the breakdown below will help you navigate the options available and find a class best suited for your needs.
Regardless of the type of class, a high quality childbirth education class should leave you feeling informed and educated to make decisions that best support the birth you are hoping to have.
SOME BASIC TOPICS THAT SHOULD BE COVERED IN ANY CLASS INCLUDE:
- Anatomy and Physiology of Pregnancy and Birth
- Stages of Labour
- Pain Coping Techniques
- Pain Management Options
- Medical interventions
- Cesarean Birth
- Postpartum Healing
WHEN TO JOIN A CLASS
It’s ideal to start your childbirth education class at around 30 weeks pregnant and have the classes completed around 35-37 weeks. Waiting until a later stage in your pregnancy allows you and your support person to have what you’ve learned fresh in your mind. It also allows your body to be closer to the final stages of pregnancy, making it easier to relate to the information..
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC CLASSES
If you would prefer to take private, in-home classes you will have the opportunity to have classes that are tailored specifically to your needs. You will have the chance to go into more detail about your exact situation, ask all the questions you can imagine and have a more personal experience with your educator.
These private classes also offer more flexibility with your schedule and usually the class comes to you, so you don’t have to leave your house. Like with most private services, if you choose a private class option you will likely be paying more money compared to a public class.
Public classes, although they tend to be more general to suit everyone’s needs, offer you a unique opportunity to connect to other people who are in a similar situation to you. You can hear other people’s feelings and questions which may give you options and answers to topics you may have never considered. Public classes also offer the opportunity to develop a sense of community. You could meet people in your childbirth education classes that may become your friends through the transition to parenthood.
FAST-TRACK OR MULTI-WEEK COURSES
Making this decision is typically based on a few key factors: your due date, your schedule and your leaning type. A multi-week class gives you the opportunity to slowly soak up what you have learned, reflecting on the material covered and possibly preparing follow-up questions to topics covered. Multi-week classes also allow you the opportunity to foster a sense of community. You will see the same people, share feelings and hopes, and possibly connect with people you would like to stay in contact with after baby has arrived.
A childbirth education fast-track course is typically scheduled over a weekend and tends to be more hours at once. This option is great if you are getting close to your due date, can’t find time to schedule a multi-week course or would prefer to get the information all at once.
These courses can also be designed as more of a refresher; covering the basics but not going into as much details. This style is ideal for people who have already had kids but would like to brush-up on their knowledge, or others who are hesitant to join a class but would still like to learn some essential information.
ONLINE AND VIRTUAL CLASSES
Online classes tend to be easier to fit into a busy schedule. Typically you can watch prerecorded videos on your own time. Unfortunately, depending on the video series you chose, you may not have the opportunity to connect with an educator to ask questions. Childbirth education classes are also available on Youtube for free, if this is something that interests you. Virtual classes are offered both in groups and privately. This allows you the opportunity to connect with others and your educator while staying at home. This method can allow for more freedom within your schedule, your location, while still giving you the opportunity to ask questions.
With online and virtual classes you do not get the same hands-on experience as you do with classes in-person. Often, pain management techniques, position changes, and role-playing will be rehearsed in a class; being in person allows for hands-on assistance from the educator.
DO YOU STILL NEED A DOULA IF YOU DO CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION?
The information you learn from a childbirth education course is very in-depth. These classes give you the opportunity to learn the basics and fundamentals of what goes on with you and baby in labour so you can make informed decisions. Of course, as doulas we are here to answer questions you have, but our prenatal sessions are not to teach you about childbirth. Our focus is preparing you and your support people for labour based on the decisions you’ve already made. If you have some background knowledge, you will likely get more out of your prenatal sessions with your doula. Also, doulas are physically with you during your labour and available for you 24/7 leading up to you giving birth. Doulas are your in-person labour coach. We are trained and specialize in physically and emotionally supporting you through your birth. Doulas can help you apply what you’ve learned in your classes to the real life experience.
POPULAR STYLES OF CHILDBIRTH EDUCATION:
BIRTHING FROM WITHIN
Birthing From Within offers a holistic approach to childbirth education. The standard information will be covered for medical, non-medical and cesarean birth but the education goes deeper to have people tap into their inner selves as they enter this transformative time from birth to new parenthood. Different methods (painting, moulding, dramatizations, story telling, etc.) are used to move within yourself and awaken your inner resources to face the unknown with courage, strengthen communication and uncouple your self-worth to medical outcomes.
Most hospitals offer some sort of prenatal education class. These classes will cover the basics of childbirth education plus information about the hospital you will give birth at and what to expect during your time there. These classes cover all types of birthing options and tend to be more general because of the variety of people who attend the classes.
The premise of Hypnobirthing is that mom and baby’s body were made to move through birth. If a birthing person is prepared, supported and relaxed they can work in harmony with their body to have a gentle, pain free birthing experience. This can be achieved through the use of visualizations, self-hypnosis, positive affirmations and deep relaxation. These classes and the assigned homework will ask birthing people and their support team to adopt a gentle approach to understanding birth; changing language used to describe birth and reframing how we typically think of birth. This style strongly supports non-medical births.
Lamaze childbirth education has been around for decades. It is a style that your parents and possibly grandparents will likely remember. Lamaze childbirth classes are taught using the Lamaze Six Healthy Birth Practices, rooted in evidence based information and center around building confidence in the birthing person. All birthing options are discussed in a Lamaze class including births with medical intervention. The focus is to have birthing people informed to feel confident to ask questions and make decisions to take control of their pregnancy and childbirth journey.
FURTHERING YOUR PRENATAL EDUCATION
Childbirth education is a great base of knowledge to have before your labour. If you are someone who really enjoys classroom type learning and you want to expand your knowledge there are many other prenatal preparation classes available. Everything from newborn care, feeding baby, postpartum nutrition and more.
If you are looking for a childbirth class serving Toronto, Durham Region, and York Region then check out: https://www.justbreathebirthcollective.ca/