What is Childbirth Education?

Photo credit of Donovan via Creative Commons License

Photo credit of Donovan via Creative Commons License

“I teach birth preparation classes,” I tell anyone who asks what I “do”, but I inevitably find myself explaining to everyone what exactly birth preparation is. So... what is birth preparation?

Simply put, the purpose of birth education is threefold:

  • To provide parents with knowledge of the process of labor and birth

  • To provide them with confidence in their ability and reduce their fear of birth

  • To provide expectant couples hands-on practice for their labor

Approaches vary but, as Babycenter puts it, “...the goal is to provide you with information to prepare for childbirth, help you make informed decisions, and minimize your fears. You'll also learn techniques to help you relax and cope with labor.”

The information that childbirth classes cover is fairly standard: pregnancy, signs of labor and when to go to the hospital, the physical process of labor and birth, as well as any complications that may arise. Classes also generally cover information on coping techniques and medicinal pain relief available. Many also teach you about the postpartum period, basic newborn care and an overview of breastfeeding.

In addition to providing you with knowledge about your upcoming labor and birth, most classes also provide time for you to practice hands-on techniques to cope with labor, from swaying on a birth ball to learning techniques to speed up a slow labor. This practice may be the most valuable thing you take from childbirth preparation classes. Knowing how to cope with labor and having a variety of “tools” to use during your labor not only helps you handle the discomfort of labor but also helps you feel confident and prepared.

Classes range from a one-day intensive course to twelve weeks of classes. Most classes fall somewhere in between these two extremes, averaging 6-8 weeks in length.

Class cost varies as dramatically as the length of courses, ranging from $65-$300 here in Lincoln, NE. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest class - take the time to look at what each course provides and decide based on what kind of birth education experience you want.

Unless you already know a great deal about labor, birth and all the options that go along with handling it, it’s a good idea to take a birth education class so that you can learn all your options, practice labor techniques and overcome any fears you may have.

Have you taken a childbirth education class? Are you planning to do so? Share your stories, questions, and comments below!